FA alerted to FA Cup semi-final travel chaos two years ago

FA alerted to FA Cup semi-final travel chaos two years ago
Manchester City will play Liverpool next month with no direct train routes running from either city to London all weekend

The Football Association was first alerted to the potential for travel chaos on next month’s FA Cup semi-final weekend more than two years ago, it has emerged, with Manchester City and Liverpool fans now demanding that their last-four clash be moved from Wembley.

No direct train routes will be running from either city into London on the weekend of 16-17 April due to planned engineering works over the Easter bank holiday.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 supporters from the two clubs are expected to travel to Wembley, with those coming from the north forced onto the roads.

The FA said on Monday it will be “liaising closely” with both clubs on arrangements for the semi-final, as well as working alongside Network Rail and National Express to allow fans to travel to Wembley “with as minimal disruption as possible”.

Rail industry sources have told The Independent that Network Rail’s planned engineering works and potential for disruption were first brought to the FA’s attention in November 2019 for forward planning purposes.

The matter was then raised once again in September of last year, with Network Rail bosses writing directly to English football’s governing body after the dates of this season’s semi-finals had been confirmed. The FA has been approached for comment.

Supporters travelling by rail from Manchester face having to change at Banbury, Sheffield or Chesterfield as part of a four-hour journey to reach the capital in time for the game, which is yet to be scheduled but expected to fall on Saturday 16 April.

Returning that evening by train is likely to be impossible without leaving Wembley before the end of a 5.30pm kick-off.

Travelling from Liverpool by train would involve multiple changes, a round trip of more than eight hours and would also mean leaving before the end of the game.

Fan groups representing the two clubs’ supporters, Spirit of Shankly and 1874, released a joint statement on Monday calling for the semi-final to be relocated from Wembley.

“The FA statement on the matter claims they are looking for a solution and twice mentions supporters, yet fails to include us in any ongoing conversation,” it read.

Dave Penney, Network Rail passenger director for the North West and Central region, said: “Because we plan our railway upgrades up to two years in advance, regrettably it’s impossible to know which teams will make it to Wembley in the FA Cup or factor that in to our annual bank holiday railway improvements.

“Now we know Liverpool and Manchester City are through to the semi-final, we are making fans aware of our work before match tickets go on sale to give people as much time as possible to plan their journey.

“Our message is if you choose to travel by rail the best times to do so are before and after the Easter Bank Holiday on Thursday 14 and Tuesday 19 April.”

The FA Cup semi-finals have been played at Wembley since 2008 following the £757m redevelopment of the national stadium, having traditionally been hosted at select grounds such as Old Trafford and Villa Park.