Its that time of the year again when major sporting events signify the season of spring. The Masters, The Grand National and FA Cup Semi Finals. Growing up as a kid this was one of my highlights of the football season (at a time where there wasn’t as many games on TV as there is now) – it was often the two games that offered the highest levels of excitement and controversy in a season.
But in recent years as with the demise of the famous cup competition so we have seen this day become just another fixture. Now I know people can blame the ‘big four’ and the Champions and Premier League gravy trains and there are some truths there, but another possibility which has been overlooked is the venue of the semi finals: Wembley itself.
I am a huge fan of the new Wembley, but the beauty of the FA Cup is its tradition and romance and how unique it is from other countries domestic cup competitions in the world. Playing the semi finals at Wembley takes the gloss and magesty away from the show piece event of the final itself. Every kid’s childhood dream is to play and score a winning goal at Wembley, in a cup final not a semi.
In England there are more than enough high quality stadia that could have staged this weekend’s semi finals including the more commonly used Old Trafford, Villa Park, Emirates Stadium, St. James Park and City of Manchester Stadium – the list is endless. A view that is shared by Harry Redknapp, Michael Ballack and David Moyes that Wembley should be kept for the final.
The FA mentioned it has been part of the business model to repay the cost of building the stadium, but what about the cost to the fans? Two trips to Wembley in a season for the same competition is expensive, I have heard of tickets at the face value of £150. Classic semi finals have always been the matches away from Wembley, and in recent seasons they have been a dull, drab affair between teams playing on a heavily cut-up pitch and not expressing the true one-off special occasion atomsphere the semi final offers – the prize being a trip to Wembley, shouldn’t that be the greatest motivation? To Earn to the right to play in a Final of the greatest domestic cup competition in the world, in the most famous stadium, that magic is created by saving Wembley for the final only. The FA need to look at many ways to re-kindle the romance of the FA Cup with fans and the media, this would be a very good starting point.
To end on a positive here are a few links to some classic FA Cup Semi Finals over the last 20 years (in no particular order).