• Liverpool and Chelsea get only 25,000 tickets each
• Late kick-off time brings travel difficulties for Liverpool fans
Kenny Dalglish has accused the Football Association of lacking respect for supporters of all clubs with its decision to start the FA Cup final at 5.15pm and to allocate tickets for only 55% of Wembley’s capacity to the finalists on 5 May.
Liverpool and Chelsea will each receive around 25,000 tickets for this season’s FA Cup final, 7,000 fewer than for the semi-finals. Almost 40,000 tickets are reserved for Club Wembley members plus the wider football community – those involved at grassroots level and the 763 clubs who entered the competition. Controversy over the ticket allocation may be customary but, due to the late kick-off and engineering work on the rail network, Liverpool supporters have the added complication of being unable to catch a direct train back to Merseyside after the final.
Liverpool officials are writing to Virgin Rail and Network Rail asking them to postpone engineering work they claim will cause “enormous disruption to fans”. Dalglish, however, believes responsibility for the logistical problems surrounding the final lies firmly with the FA.
The Liverpool manager, who has been involved in several disputes with the FA this season, notably over the Luis Suárez affair, said: “For me – and it’s not just about fans of this club but every fan – I think they should be given a bit more respect. They’ve rebuilt Wembley but I don’t think 25,000 is any greater number of tickets than what it was when I was playing. That’s for the FA to answer. The fans should be given more respect and taken into consideration more. There’s a lot of things to be taken into consideration for a kick-off time – the police, the television – but the fans seem to be the ones who come third. As a fan I would be disappointed.”
The Southport MP John Pugh has claimed in a letter to Sir Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Group, that Network Rail has refused to cancel engineering works that had been planned for 18 months as “one compounding factor is their fear of incurring financial losses through complicating Virgin Rail schedules and plans”. Pugh also warns that fans are “not only seriously inconvenienced but put at risk through the difficulty of constructing a workable set of arrangements”.
Dalglish said: “I won’t support anyone other than the fans. It would be better if they were given greater consideration when the FA are looking at the kick-off time. I don’t think anyone’s got a voice for them and, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be such a special occasion if the fans are not there, would it? Sometimes the problem comes when fans are taken for granted. I don’t mean just the fans at this club but fans everywhere. If people have a complaint I’d advise them to complain to the relevant authorities. It hasn’t been made easy for them by any means but I’m sure they will get there.”
The Liverpool manager, meanwhile, believes his predecessor, Roy Hodgson, will receive a “warm reception” when he returns to Anfield with West Bromwich Albion on Sunday for the first time since being sacked 15 months ago.
“It will be good to see Roy and to see him back at Anfield again,” said Dalglish. “I’m sure he’ll get a warm reception from the supporters. He is a man with real integrity and dignity. He tried his best for this football club and I’m sure the supporters will respect that. As a person I respect him tremendously. He’s done very well at West Brom. He is a good coach and a good manager and has good experience behind him. He did well last year to keep West Brom up and he kept them up easily this season.”