Semi Final Debate

Semi Final Debate

The FA Cup has taken a bashing in recent years, but England's oldest club competition has bounced back this season. In the semi-finals, four of the Premier League's strongest sides in Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Arsenal went up against each other on a memorable weekend of action at Wembley Stadium.

But should the semi-finals take place at Wembley? Since 2008, the home of English football has played host to the final four - much to the dismay of fans across the country. If you look back through the years, neutral club venues across England have hosted semi-finals in the past, with Villa Park and Old Trafford housing some of the greatest matches in FA Cup history.

Take this season, for example, where Manchester City failed to sell out their allocation for the semi against Arsenal. Had a neutral club venue, most probably Villa Park, hosted that encounter, the City end would have been full. It is time for the Football Association to consider reverting back to the traditional format - whether that affects Wembley's standing or not.

For supporters of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, a day out at Wembley is just another London away game. However, those living north of London need to factor in travel and a simple football match at Wembley can become costly. Supporters either choose to wake up early and travel down on the day or spend a fortune on a hotel to avoid the initial rush.

As it is, Manchester City lost to Arsene Wenger's side in extra time and Wembley will host its first all-London final since the new stadium was erected. The Gunners, currently 3/1 to beat Chelsea in FA Cup betting markets , have a decent record in finals under Wenger and a mouth-watering contest between two of England's most successful clubs awaits.

Football in England is expensive; you only need to look at ticket prices over in Europe to realise that. You could argue that the Premier League's success around the world has cost your average Joe in the United Kingdom - fans are now expected to pay extortionate sums of money to support their side.

What is even worse is the fact that the FA continue to expect fans to travel down to Wembley, especially as kick-off times are adjusted to benefit the television stations. With a 5.30pm kick-off time for the final, northern clubs are left with a dilemma over supporters and that is exactly what happened to Manchester United last season. Fortunately for Red Devils fans, the club provided free transport for supporters travelling down to Wembley.

Not every club could afford to do this, though. United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and another northern side, whether that's Everton or somebody like Sunderland, wouldn't be able to do this. The sooner the Football Association realise that fans are the key to success in the sport, the better. Hopefully, they wake up and smell the coffee sooner rather than later; keep the FA Cup semi-finals away from Wembley.

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