Liverpool and Manchester City fans have united in their condemnation of the “shambolic” travel arrangements for their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley next month.
Leading supporters groups from both clubs said they were appalled as the Football Association began liaising with Network Rail after it emerged no direct trains to London from Manchester and Merseyside are scheduled over the Easter weekend.
Engineering work dictates that trains from Liverpool Lime Street will terminate at Rugby and those from Manchester Piccadilly at Milton Keynes, forcing fans to either travel by road, air or contemplate circuitous cross-country rail journeys that make day-return trips virtually impossible. Avanti West Coast on Monday confirmed the lack of direct trains.
“The FA will be liaising closely with both Liverpool and Manchester City on all match arrangements, including supporters travel for the upcoming FA Cup semi-final fixture at Wembley Stadium, with further details to be announced in due course,” said a spokesmanon Monday night. “We are also continuing to work with both Network Rail and National Express to find a solution so that supporters of both teams are able to travel to and from the fixture with as minimal disruption as possible.”
The leading Liverpool supporters group Spirit of Shankly is working with its counterparts at City’s We are 1894 to push the FA and television companies into finding some sort of compromise. “Fans representatives from both Liverpool and Man City are appalled at the shambolic travel arrangements,” tweeted Spirit of Shankly on Monday.
Any solution would be welcomed by Jürgen Klopp. “How is it possible that the whole of the north-west is cut off from the rest of England?” asked the Liverpool manager after their quarter-final win against Nottingham Forest. “I do not know which kind of solutions are available but I hope someone finds one. If we could play with supporters that would be really good for both teams.”
Chelsea can expect to have full support at their semi-final despite the UK government’s sanctions on Roman Abramovich barring the club from selling any new tickets. It is a situation intended to prevent Abramovich from benefiting from revenue streams but one that Julian Knight, the chair of parliament’s digital, culture, media and sport select committee, disagrees with.
Knight believes Chelsea fans should be allowed to purchase Wembley seats, with the proviso that all proceeds go to the people of Ukraine. “It is ridiculous that we face the prospect of a half-full Wembley for the Chelsea vs Palace FA Cup semi-final,” he said. “Chelsea is more than just its owner, it’s a living organism with huge importance to its fans and community.
“It was understandable that, at short notice, last week’s game against Middlesbrough went ahead without Chelsea fans but, with this much notice, the FA have no excuse for excluding them. The FA must be allowed to sell tickets to Chelsea fans so long as all money goes to the people of Ukraine.”
Discussions between the government, the Premier League and the Football Association on ticketing for Chelsea fixtures are ongoing, with one suggestion being that seats could be sold by an independent commercial ticket agency.