An FA Cup semi-final between two northern clubs at Wembley never would have made much sense. On a weekend with long-scheduled track upgrades meaning no train service from Liverpool and Manchester to London it becomes preposterous.
The match between Jürgen Klopp’s Reds and Pep Guardiola’s Citizens set for April 16th will go ahead as scheduled, though. That was the word from the FA late last week—a decision that drew a critical response from Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.
“This time I’ve been thinking a bit more about the fans,” Henderson said of the prospect of returning to Wembley for a semi-final not very long after playing there in the League Cup final and with a potential third visit on order should they beat City.
“In many ways it’s their day and not being able to get down to London for different reasons [and] the cost of that. So in my head it would make sense obviously to change it to a neutral venue, especially with it being two teams from the northwest.”
Until the 2008 season, FA Cup semi-finals were typically held at neutral grounds around England, but the construction of a new Wembley for the English national team came at massive cost and the semis were moved there for financial reasons.
Villa Park in Birmingham, a former semi-final venue that would have been free as Liverpool’s game against Aston Villa had been scheduled for the weekend of the semi-final and has now been postponed, was the most commonly proposed option.
Instead of moving it, the FA decided to offer 100 free busses to carry fans of the clubs south. A standard coach carries around 50-60 people, so busses will help bring 5000-6000 fans to Wembley. Each club has been allocated 34,000 tickets.
“Looking at the fans and we’ve learned over the past couple of years how important the fans are to football, it is really disappointing,” Henderson added of the decision. “It’s a struggle and it’s [going] 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 anyway and play semi-finals at another neutral ground like it used to be.”