Friday, 22 February 2008

Wembley twice?

In the build up to last Saturday's game at Cardiff I was hearing on the grapevine that both the semi-finals of this season's FA Cup are to be staged at Wembley. Then confirmation last Sunday (on Match of the Day and on talkSPORT) that indeed, this is to be the case.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it may be a good thing for the practicalities of this FA Cup run. It would, in theory, increase the chances of me getting tickets. The official capacity at the "Venue of Legends" is 90,000 as opposed to the traditionally used neutral venues of Villa Park (42,640), The Emirates (60,355) and Old Trafford (76,212). There is also no real distance to travel; I would probably leave the car at home for my wife to wash whilst I jump on the train and tube.

On the other hand, assuming that I did actually make it to the final, having a semi-final there would be a bit of an anti-climax. My heart is telling me that Wembley should be reserved for the final and the final only. That sense of a special achievement, the grand occasion that is reaching a final at Wembley, would be diluted somewhat. I could quite perceivably fail in this venture yet still make it to Wembley. That would be a strange feeling indeed.

And what about the fans of the clubs in the last four? A potential semi-final tie could be Manchester United v Middlesborough. Would the fans from either club want to travel down to London in April? More money flowing out of the fans' pockets? Elland Road or Hillsborough would offer 40,000 the chance to see the game, so would it be worth travelling the extra distance for 50,000 extra tickets. Quite possibly.

The decision to hold both games at Wembley was no doubt made some time ago and the bottom line is once again money. The stadium cost an outrageous £778 million to build (compared to the fabulous Allianz Arena in Munich which came in on budget at £340 million) and it needs to pay for itself. Staging high profile games is the only way it will achieve this.

A not insignificant adjustment to the FA Cup for this season then. An adjustment for the fans as well; it will be amusing to hear the "we're all off to Wembley!" chants in the semi-finals. And perhaps a minor adjustment to the title of this blog? Wick to Wembley twice?

Doesn't quite feel right, does it?

Oh, and if my wife is reading this, then I was joking about her washing my car...

1 comment:

by Paul Kirkwood said...

I agree - and also think that there's something similarly wrong and undignified about the fine old trophy being touted around to just about every local press photocall as happens now. It should appear once only - in the hands of the winning team at the final. Personally, I blame it all on Dennis Wise: nothing's been the same since he collected the cup with this son in his arms.