Football

Arsenal fans forced to swallow outrageous FA Cup scheduling

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Arsenal fans have been shown close to no consideration by the Football Association and television schedulers today, with the BBC deciding to show their FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United at Old Trafford at 7.45pm on Monday, March 9th.

You have to wonder if the travel plans of up to 11,250 Gunners supporters even crossed the minds of the men who spread four quarter-finals across three days next month, because one look at the train schedule that evening makes a mockery of their suggestion.

The last train back to London from Manchester 9th is at 9.15pm, before arguably the biggest game of Arsenal's season so far is even close to finishing. That means its an eight-hour round trip in the car or an expensive night in a hotel, all of which just seems like the latest slip in the face for fans who just aren't a priority for broadcasters chasing the best ratings possible.

Common sense too much ask for?

A quick look at the geography of the four FA Cup quarter-finals BT Sport and the BBC were ask to schedule makes the decision look even more farcical.

Arsenal fans must travel 199 miles to Manchester then back on Monday night, while Reading's faithful face the unenviable task of being at Valley Parade in Bradford, 214 miles away from Berkshire, for 12.45pm on a Saturday afternoon.

This is all while two teams just four miles apart in Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion get the breathing room of a 5.15pm start on the same Saturday. Talk about twisted logic.

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Arsenal should voice disappointment

Gunners chiefs have clearly been caught by surprise by the announcement, conveying in a hurried statement earlier today they'll make arrangements to get Arsenal fans home who are desperate to watch their team try to end an Old Trafford hoodoo that dates back to 2006.

The statement on Arsenal's official website read: "In the wake of this announcement, the club is exploring a number of options to help our travelling supporters get back to London afterwards.

"No return trains are currently timetabled and we will let supporters know the proposed travel plans as soon as possible."

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has been critical of the FA's handling of the competition in the past, but that was in respect to a disappointing allocation for the cup final at Wembley.

Gazidis was furious that Arsenal fans got just 26,000 tickets in a 92,000 capacity stadium on that famous day against Hull City, but a man who chairs an FA committee should be more forceful in speaking out against kick-off time which leave his own fans feeling alienated this time round.

FA and the BBC undoing their own good work

One of the special things about the FA Cup, which has largely been a tremendous success this season by the way, is the 15% allocation offered to away fans that helps create a unique atmosphere at ties across the country.

That sense of occasion is rendered redundant though if fans can't attend the match to begin with, which is why football authorities must explain their scheduling decisions and show some transparency by working with clubs to make better informed scheduling choices.

Simple consultation with Arsenal would have surely seen the Gunners voice concerns, although the BBC clearly thought putting United on their biggest channel on Monday night was too big of a ratings hit to pass up.

It's a shame the BBC will make headlines for another stupid call like this rather than the sterling work done to help restore the FA Cup's reputation this term, putting it firmly back in the big sporting picture with the help of giant killings across the board.

Ultimately this latest move smacks of cutting off your nose to spite your face though, because supporters deserve better than to be overlooked altogether by a game fast losing touch with its core fan base.

Arsenal fans, are you cheesed off with this Monday night madness or do you feel its a necessary evil in the modern game? Have your say by responding in the comment box below.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
FA Cup
Arsenal
Manchester United

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