FA defends Cup final kick-off time
The Football Association has defended its decision to kick off this season's FA Cup final at 5.15pm BST.
The late start 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.
The decision has caused controversy, with Virgin Trains, who operate the UK's West Coast mainline service connecting London with the North West, expressing their concerns about the kick-off time to the FA. They are also looking into the possibility of putting on extra trains for Saturday night.
The FA, however, released an official statement on its website on Wednesday pointing out that the kick-off time is unchanged from last season's final between Chelsea and Liverpool, while adding that other possible travel options, such as its official travel partners, National Express coaches, are available.
The statement read: "In relation to the information announced for the kick-off time of The FA Cup with Budweiser Final, The FA would like to highlight that 5.15pm is a regular kick-off time in the football calendar. This time was agreed with major stakeholders and broadcasters and has been used across the game for a number of years for televised matches.
"In terms of transportation, a small percentage of Cup Final fans use the method of train travel. Additional coach services which National Express are running, including directly from Wembley Stadium, mean there are more options for fans returning north after the game from Wembley on Saturday 11 May.
"The kick-off time is unchanged from last year and this allows more football fans around the country to watch The Cup Final in its entirety. The domestic viewing figures for last year's FA Cup Final, shown on ITV and ESPN, recorded a combined peak in-home audience of 11.7m people in the UK. This was the highest peak viewing figure The FA Cup Final has achieved under the current TV deal and a higher audiencee than that of Bayern Munich v Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final."
It had been thought that this year's final could revert to its traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off time, 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 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.