The statement comes just days after the organisation came in for criticism from Wigan and Manchester City fans who accused them of prioritising commercial interestsThe FA has defended their decision to schedule the FA Cup final at 5:15pm amid widespread castigation over the resulting transport issues facing Wigan and Manchester City supporters.
Both clubs have raised concerns that the timing of the even would hinder the travel plans for supporters making the trip from the north west, but English football's governing body insists the early-evening kick-off is not unusual for such an event.
“The FA would like to highlight that 5.15pm is a regular kick-off time in the football calendar” a statement on the FA’s official website reads.
“This time was agreed with major stakeholders and broadcasters and has been used across the game for a number of years for televised matches.
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“Additional coach services which National Express are running, including directly from Wembley Stadium, mean there are more options for fans returning north after the game from Wembley on Saturday 11 May.“
The statement goes on to explain that the later kick-off allows a greater number of fans to watch television coverage of the game, thus boosting the revenue potential of the event.
“The kick-off time is unchanged from last year and this allows more football fans around the country to watch The Cup Final in its entirety,” the statement continued.
“The domestic viewing figures for last year’s FA Cup Final, shown on ITV and ESPN, recorded a combined peak in-home audience of 11.7 million people in the UK.
“This was the highest peak viewing figure The FA Cup Final has achieved under the current TV deal and a higher audience than that of Bayern Munich v Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final.”
Earlier this week, the Wigan Supporters' Club spokesman Jason Taylor told the Guardian that the late timing of the game would leave fans of both Manchester City and Wigan unable to catch the last trains back to the north west, particularly if the result were to be decided in extra-time.
“It seems the FA are more interested in what the television companies want than the logistics of supporters getting to and from their final,” Taylor said.
“It’s not just us, it affects Manchester City as well.
“They are only 18 miles away and we will be using the same roads and, if it was possible, train lines. It was a nightmare for the semi-final.”