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Apr 16, 2013

FA confirms late FA Cup final kick-off

The FA Cup final will kick off at 5.15pm BST for a second successive season, the Football Association has confirmed.

The decision means fans travelling to the Wembley game between Wigan and Manchester City - being screened live by ESPN - could face a battle to return home on the day of the final.

The last train from London's Euston station to Wigan leaves at 9pm, meaning many fans will be stranded in London if the match goes to extra-time.

Virgin Trains, who operate the UK's West Coast mainline service connecting London with the North West, have expressed their concerns about the kick-off time to the FA, and are looking into the possibility of putting on extra trains for Saturday night.

"We have had a direct dialogue with both the FA and Wembley Stadium that if team(s) from the North West were to be involved in the FA Cup final at Wembley then a 17:15 kick off would mean supporters would be unable to return to the North West that evening," a Virgin Trains statement released to ESPN read.

"We appreciate that the FA do have major commercial considerations in agreeing to a teatime kick off, but to be fair to all concerned we thought that that at least it (the FA) should be made aware of the situation as soon as possible.

"The unpredictability of exactly when the match will end, coupled with the earlier close down of the route for essential maintenance and inspection means that the planning of any additional services is extremely difficult given the high numbers of supporters that would attempt to return to the North West that evening.

"We would much rather that everyone fully understands the position well in advance so that that they can make their plans accordingly."

A spokesman for the FA told the Times: "The 5.15pm kick off time gives more people an opportunity to see the game and proved very popular last season with the peak time television audience higher than that of Bayern Munich v Chelsea in the Champions League Final.

"A post 5pm kick-off slot on a Saturday has been used regularly by both the Premier League and Football League for their televised fixtures for a number of seasons.

"We have been in dialogue with Virgin about travel options back to the North-West since before the semi-finals although research shows that only a minimal amount of fans use this mode of transport when travelling to Wembley Stadium."

However, the FA spokesman was keen to suggest other possible travel options, particularly via its own coach service.

"National Express are the official coach partner of Wembley Stadium and their service was well received by fans at last season's FA Cup Final," he said.

Last season's final, between Chelsea and Liverpool, also kicked off at 5.15pm.

It had been thought that this year's final could revert to its traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off, with only one other English game - Chelsea's visit to Aston Villa - being played on that day and the others taking place on Sunday.

Wigan are in the final for the first time in their history, while Manchester City, who ended their long trophy drought with victory over Stoke in 2011, are looking to lift the cup for the second time in three seasons.

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