Jordan Henderson has criticized the Football Association for failing supporters with scheduling for the FA Cup semi-finals and believes Wembley should only host the final.
The FA resisted calls to relocate next month’s tie between Manchester City and Liverpool but have moved the kick-off forward and will provide 100 free buses for fans to help ease the threat of travel chaos.
Fans of both clubs in addition to the mayors of the respective cities had called for the game to be switched to a different venue given that there are no trains running from either Manchester or Liverpool to London on the weekend of the match.
“It’s the fans’ day and not being able to get down to London for different reasons, in my head it would make sense to change it to a [different] neutral venue, especially with it being two teams from the North West,” said Henderson, the Liverpool captain.
“There’s obviously complications within that I’m sure, which the FA have got to overcome, but looking at the fans, which is the most important thing and something that we’ve learned over the past couple of years, it is really disappointing to see that it’s a struggle, and it’s got to be expensive for them to get there.
“I love playing at Wembley. It’s a fantastic occasion, a fantastic stadium. But I would like to keep Wembley for finals.”
Despite pressure to change the venue to minimize the financial and logistical impact on supporters, the FA confirmed on Friday that the tie will go ahead at Wembley on Saturday April 16.
However, the governing body have announced a raft of measures that they hope will ease the burden on fans. They include:
- The provision of 100 buses to ferry up to 5,000 City and Liverpool supporters from the Etihad Stadium and Anfield to Wembley and back free of charge
- Hundreds of thousands of non essential roadworks being put on hold to aid travel times
- Kick-off time brought forward from its usual 5.15pm slot on Saturday to 3.30pm to assist with travel back to the North West and ensure City fans can also watch their women’s team’s semi-final earlier in the day.
With only three Premier League matches and none in the Championship, League One or League Two due to kick-off at 3pm on April 16, the FA are not contravening English football’s so-called “3pm blackout” by televising the Cup semi-final at 3:30 p.m. The game will be shown live on BBC One.
Article 48 of the Uefa statutes permits games to be broadcast at such time in instances where there are so few matches kicking off at 3pm.
The 3pm blackout has been in place since the 1960s and is there primarily to prevent attendances dropping off at games outside the top flight if they were scheduled at the same time as live matches.
In addition to police, security, club and broadcaster considerations, the FA felt an earlier kick-off would further help to reduce possible travel complications as a result of no trains running between Manchester/Liverpool and London.
It will also ensure City fans are still able to watch the women’s team’s own semi-final against West Ham at Dagenham and Redbridge’s Chigwell Construction Stadium, which is due to kick off at 12.15pm. The FA will also provide a number of free return bus services between Manchester and east London for City supporters for that match.
Buses chartered and roadworks rescheduled
The governing body said they recognized the “significant challenges” being faced by Liverpool and City supporters and were “pleased” to able to charter 100 buses to assist travel to and from the game.
The FA said they had also been working with partners at National Highways to minimize disruption on the road networks given the shortage of train services. “Hundreds of thousands of unessential roadworks will be put on hold to help supporters enjoy the occasion and enhance their journeys,” the FA said.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and his counterpart in Liverpool, Steve Rotheram, had written to the FA to call for the game to be moved from Wembley.
With petrol prices soaring and no trains meaning more congestion on the roads and the prospect of some fans having to book overnight accommodation, Burnham and Rotheram told the FA that fans faced “excessive cost and inconvenience”.
The FA had been warned of the potential for traffic chaos for the semi-finals six months ago, with the engineering works scheduled as far back as 2019. The FA said European fixture considerations were a factor behind the decision to play the Cup semi-finals on Easter weekend and pointed out that engineering works are also scheduled for April 9/10 and April 23/24.
The other semi-final, between Chelsea and Crystal Palace, will be shown live on ITV on Sunday April 17 at 4.30pm.