Why are the FA Cup semi-finals played at Wembley?

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The famous London venue was traditionally where the final was played, but the Football Association have expanded its use

In the English football tradition, getting to play at Wembley - the iconic 'Home of Football' - is seen as the pinnacle for many players.

The hallowed venue was the customary battleground for the FA Cup final and other such deciders, as well as England games, so its turf was preserved for a select group.

Indeed, such was the prestige associated with it that Tottenham released a song along with Chas and Dave just for reaching the 1981 final!

However, in recent years it hasn't been such an exclusive venue. FA Cup semi-finals are now held there too, while Spurs have used the ground as their temporary home for a number of seasons.

The 2019 FA Cup semi-finals will see Manchester City take on Brighton at the stadium, while Wolves play Watford there in the other tie.

Goal takes a look at why the games are played at Wembley and when the change came into effect.

Why are the FA Cup semi-finals played at Wembley?

The FA Cup semi-finals have been played at Wembley since the 2007-08 season, following a decision made by the FA in 2003.

It was a move driven chiefly by financial reasons, with the FA keen to ensure that the stadium - which cost roughly £789 million ($1bn) - brought in enough revenue to pay for itself.

Indeed, as the biggest stadium in the United Kingdom with a capacity of 90,000, Wembley stands to earn more from ticket sales than other similar venues.

Wembley General view

The first FA Cup semi-finals to be played at the new Wembley were Portsmouth versus West Brom and Cardiff City versus Barnsley in April 2008. Of the teams involved on that occasion, only Portsmouth were playing in the Premier League, with the rest representing the Championship.

Prior to 2008, FA Cup semi-finals were traditionally played at a handful of select venues, including Old Trafford in Manchester, Villa Park in Birmingham and Hillsborough in Sheffield.

Inevitably, the switch to staging all semi-finals at Wembley led to some discontent, but Nick Barron, who was a spokesperson for the FA at the time, said that it was a "financial necessity".

"There will be traditionalists upset by the idea of the semi-finals being at Wembley," Barron said in 2003. "So will some fans of clubs who would have to travel a long way to London and we appreciate that it's not necessarily an ideal situation.

"However, it's a financial necessity in order to pay for the new stadium. And the up side is that not only will more fans be able to watch the games, but they will be doing so in the best stadium in the world."

While Wembley was traditionally preserved for the final before 2008, the old stadium did host a number of semi-finals during the 1990s, the first of which was the 1991 meeting between North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

After over a decade of the semi-final games being played in the capital venue, however, there have been calls to restore the regional element to the FA Cup.

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Former Aston Villa chief executive Keith Wyness, for example, argued that playing games at Villa Park was a positive idea.

"Villa Park semi-finals were always very special games and we’d like to see them back here," Wyness told the Mirror in 2018. "The England roadshow was good, and Villa Park as one of the venues would be great.

“It’s also the perfect opportunity for the FA administration to relocate to the Midlands, the heart of the country."