THE Football Association has defended the evening kick-off for this year’s FA Cup final after suggestions it could leave fans of Manchester City and Wigan stranded in the capital.
Rail operator Virgin Trains had warned that the nominated 5.15pm kick-off would make it hard for supporters to return from the Wembley final on their services and fans’ groups are known to prefer earlier start times. But the FA, which moved the final to the later time for last year’s showpiece between Chelsea and Liverpool, does not believe it will cause widespread disruption on 11 May.
An FA statement read: “In relation to the information announced for the kick-off time of the FA Cup Final, the FA would like to highlight that 5.15pm is a regular kick-off time in the football calendar. This time was agreed with major stakeholders and broadcasters and has been used across the game for a number of years for televised matches. In terms of transportation, a small percentage of Cup Final fans use the method of train travel. Additional coach services which National Express are running, including directly from Wembley Stadium, mean there are more options for fans returning north after the game. The kick-off time is unchanged from last year and this allows more football fans around the country to watch the Cup Final in its entirety.”
The FA has also confirmed that Andre Marriner will take charge of the final. The showpiece match marks the third refereeing assignment for the 42-year-old at England’s national stadium. Marriner took charge of the 2010 Community Shield between Manchester United and Chelsea and was the man in the middle for Cardiff’s defeat to Blackpool in the Championship play-off final the same year.