5pm is too late
15 April ~ The Magic of the Cup – we're all feeling it in Hull. Progress to the final for the first time in the club's long and less than illustrious history hasn't been easy, and such is the lack of respect the competition has had for us over our lifespans, we've expected it to end at every hurdle. But now we're in the final. Of course, with that comes an array of logistical, practical and financial strains. The FA has decreed that just 25,000 tickets will go to the two clubs. This has left indignant Arsenal fans asking why 20,000 of their own season passholders can't attend the game.
It has also raised the question of why 40,000 or so seats should be prioritised for people with no affiliation to either finalist.The occasion should be almost exclusively about the supporters of the two competing clubs. Instead far too much importance is again given to the extended and dysfunctional "football family".
The 25,000 allocation is probably about right for City, on reflection. We have fewer season ticket holders than that figure – indeed, the KC has only about that number of seats with the away fans and the cordoned no-go areas included. The hardened supporter who has been going since the days when manager Terry Dolan was encouraging Division Four right-backs to aim for the corner flag with every pass will feel vindicated, as he or she will get first dibs on the tickets. The rest will go to part-timers or newbies who haven't a clue who Chris Chilton, Garreth Roberts or Stuart Elliott are but have breathed in the "Cup fever" and suddenly are the biggest City fans ever.
But the timing of the game has caused a lot of consternation. A 5pm kick-off means that, currently, trains are pretty much a no-no for any City fan who want to return to Hull after the match, as the last one to the city from King’s Cross leaves at 8pm. In these days of necessary but non-refundable advanced tickets, it means booking this train would be a risk if the game goes to extra time. Even a normal-time finish might render the dash back to King’s Cross along the Metropolitan line a bit of a tight scramble, and if City were to win the Cup then these fans would have to sacrifice seeing Curtis Davies climb the steps to receive it.
The kick-off time is also a dilemma for those who are happy to splash out on a London weekend. A Friday night out followed by a 3pm kick-off and an early evening journey home in time to get the highlights on ITV1+1 would have been in a lot of minds; now the prospects are for a very long wait on a Saturday or, more riskily, a Saturday night on the tiles and a Sunday jaunt home which few will feel like doing if City end up taking a pasting.
First Hull Trains have suggested they will put on extra services, which they managed to do for the semi-final at quite a cost (while also making the return trains totally dry, thereby ruining the prospects of mature celebration or reflective sorrow-drowning) and that seems like the best option for those who want to enjoy an event for what it is, not for what the FA now believes it is.
The FA Cup final ceased to be an occasion for the fans many years ago thanks to sponsorship, prices, skewed kick-off times and more, but it's only when a club geographically and historically on the periphery has the audacity to make the final does it become truly apparent. At least Wigan Athletic last season made sure their fans had a victory to celebrate as they galloped back to the Underground before their players had even left the field. Matthew Rudd