FA Cup

Branson questions timing of FA Cup final

Richard Branson
Richard Branson: The FA should look at the timing of the game.
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Virgin boss Richard Branson has asked the Football Association (FA) to rethink the timing of next month's FA Cup final, in the light of travel problems faced by Liverpool fans.

Major maintenance work means rail travel, of which Virgin is the main provider, is likely to be severely disrupted over the May public holiday weekend.

That means supporters traveling from the north-west to Wembley for a 5:15pm kick-off against Chelsea on May 5, and hoping to return on the same day, will be affected.

"We have a strong relationship with Liverpool Football club and twice recently have worked with them and Network Rail to bring many fans to Wembley," said Branson in a letter emailed to the Liverpool Echo.

"On this occasion we would ask the FA to look again at the timing of the game."

The FA did not respond to Branson's call for a rethink on the kick-off time but stressed they felt there would be enough coaches to ferry fans back and forth.

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"In light of the disrupted rail service to London, The FA can confirm that National Express, a partner of Wembley Stadium, will provide dedicated services between Liverpool and Wembley for the FA Cup Final," said an FA spokesman.

"We went on record last year to state that the 2011-12 FA Cup final would have a later kick-off time while May 5 was announced almost 12 months ago to allow the Premier League to conclude in plenty of time for England to prepare for this summer's European Championships."

But with all but three of Virgin's Liverpool to London trains having been cancelled that day and the last return service leaving just after 8:00pm, some fans still face being stranded in the capital.

The matter was even discussed in Parliament on Thursday, with Transport Secretary Justine Greening telling the House of Commons, "The underlying problem that we are trying to solve is that the FA Cup starts later than it was originally planned to start."

Six lawmakers have signed an early day motion, calling on "all involved to take the action necessary to ensure disruption is minimised as much as possible."

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