Today Aston Villa put tickets for the FA Cup semi-final on sale for the first wave of Villa supporters who met the necessary criteria, but two vital pieces of information were missing…
First of all, we don’t know who Villa will be playing at Wembley due to the quarter-final draw between Liverpool and Blackburn, and secondly and most importantly, supporters are having to purchase their Wembley tickets without actually knowing for sure which day the actual game will be on. Will it be Saturday April 18th or Sunday 19th April?
MOMS rang the FA to find out why supporters of all clubs have been left in the lurch, and Villa supporters at least, are being put in the position where they have to buy tickets for a match they don’t know the actual date of. After all, supporters might need to organise days off work, book hotels and advance travel. Also, the longer the announcement gets left, the more expensive the trip will become, as earlier booking of trains and hotels normally means better prices and availability.
“Discussions are ongoing” was the through-line of the FA spokesman’s answer on the phone to MOMS. Reading between-the-lines, the main factor that is holding back announcing the date is the television deal. Obviously, the potential plum tie of the semi-finals with the biggest potential audience (which has knock-on effects for advertisers etc) would be a Aston Villa vs Liverpool game (let’s be honest, mainly due to Liverpool’s global fanbase).
The problem is the Blackburn vs Liverpool replay takes place a full month after the original fixture and the winners won’t be known until the evening of April 8th, just over a week before the semi-final weekend of dates.
When I asked the FA who is involved in these discussions about the dates – the expected answer of ‘FA, TV companies, Police and clubs’ was given. To which I replied, “And what about the supporters? The ones that are being unnecessarily inconvenienced the most…”
Apparently, the club are meant to represent them in such discussions, the clubs met with FA officials over a week ago to discuss semi-final planning, yet still we the supporters are none the wiser to the date.
Lets not forget these facts when it comes to deciding the semi-final dates.
1) The draw for the semi-finals was made nine days ago. That’s plenty of time to discuss solutions for the date equation.
2) In terms of policing, Blackburn and Liverpool fans would both be coming to Wembley from the North West of England and be taking a similar route down in terms of coaches and trains.
3) The other semi-final was decided on Monday night and that’s the last permutation that would be known before the April 8th date of the other semi-final, so why not make a decision before the Wednesday on-sale date of tickets?
4) It’s known that both West Brom and Birmingham have games in the London area on the Saturday, so in terms of policing, you’d guess at least the West Midlands Police are campaigning for Villa to play their semi-final on the Sunday.
5) In terms of TV, Arsenal vs Reading is pretty much the same as Arsenal vs Bradford. Arsenal are the out-and-out favourites against lower league opposition, so the TV companies know what they’re getting with that tie, so they didn’t even need to wait for the result of the Reading vs Bradford replay. Would the difference of whether it was Bradford or Reading fans effect the policing situation as much as the Villa one in point 4? It’s hard to think why?
6) On Saturday April 18th, it’s Chelsea vs Manchester United at 17.30, a potential time slot for one of the semi-final games.
7) Hold back ticket sales until the date is known? Well, Villa are caught in a catch-22 situation here. By selling early they give fans more time for forward-planning, so you can’t blame them for that. It’s been perhaps the only beneficial action towards supporters in this whole debacle.
So When Will We Know?
I repeatedly asked the FA on the phone when a decision would be made (‘rough timeframe’ etc). Of course, it would be too helpful to commit to any answer, even if it was a rough estimate.
“I hope you aren’t relying on the outcome of the April 8th reply between Liverpool and Blackburn to make the decision?” i ventured…
The FA spokesman replied, of course they hoped to have a decision by then, but “couldn’t 100% confirm there would be”!
I told him it would be hard to take the FA seriously if they indeed waited until the outcome of the replay between LIverpool and Blackburn. The FA spokesman actually agreed with that.
The FA are currently ruling their eye over events at the FA Cup quarter-final Villa Park, and will no doubt fine the club (despite the scenes being largely celebratory). Although, I would be surprised and angered if it wasn’t at least mitigated by the fact the FA endorsed the 5.30pm evening TV time for a local derby. But who is the FA accountable to when they inconvenience football supporters due to their commercial negotiations?
It’s a shame there isn’t a powerful universal supporters body that would investigate the FA and then rule a supporter punishment on them, such as fans boycotting England games at Wembley, or even boycotting FA Cup semi-finals played at Wembley (they were moved to Wembley to help cover the cost of rebuilding it).
There has been more than enough time to decide which dates the FA Cup semi-finals should be played on, so that tickets wouldn’t be put on sale with the date unknown. Yet again, football supporters are an afterthought in the game, when without them, it would be sweet FA.
If you want to voice your frustrations at how the Football Association (FA) have dealt with the semi-final dates, give them a call, it’s a free phone number:
The FA – 0800 169 1863 (select option ‘3’)
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