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FA Cup Semi-Final @ Villa Park (7pm)

last updated Wednesday 13th March 2002, 11:28 AM
Fulham and chelsea will meet the Football Association on Thursday to discuss arrangements for their FA Cup semi-final, which has been moved out of the capital to Villa Park on police advice.

The meeting will attempt to ensure not only the best segregation plans for the two sets of fans but also to ease their travel routes to and from Birmingham for a 1900 GMT kick-off on Sunday, April 14.

Fulham were in favour of Villa Park, arguing that the extra capacity would allow more fans to watch their biggest game in 27 years.

Chelsea wanted the all-London tie to be played across the capital at Highbury. It would have given the supporters of both clubs the shortest of distances to travel, significantly less than the 100-mile trek to the Midlands. However, the logistics conspired against them. Highbury has a smaller capacity than Villa Park and with Chelsea having a larger-than-average attendance in the FA Barclaycard Premiership, they would have secured more tickets than Fulham. The Flora London Marathon is being held on the same day and the Metropolitan Police was concerned about its staffing levels. Also, it is not keen on 7pm kick-offs in London on Sundays.

“We have an obligation to try to ensure as many fans as possible can watch the semifinals,” Adrian Bevington, an FA official, said. “Villa Park was Fulham’s first choice and will allow a fair allocation of tickets. Highbury would have been too small to accommodate the number of supporters who will want to go.”

Moving the game to Villa Park will allow the rival fans to be more evenly segregated. It also ensures that it can be shown live on BBC1 in a prime-time slot — as the corporation’s contract with the FA stipulates.

The Football Association have also announced that the home of Manchester United will stage Middlesbrough´s last-four clash with either Arsenal or north-east rivals Newcastle at 4pm. Sky will televise the match.
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