The FA have turned their Cup into a breeding ground for bitterness
22:15 GMT, 13 April 2012
There are times when a minute’s silence is appropriate. There are times when it is not. There are times when a football match should go ahead. And there are times when it should not.
The Football Association are about to find this out the hard way. Frankly, the game’s governing body have made a complete hash of so many commonsense decisions this week it has been nigh-on impossible to keep up.
They have been closing their eyes to potentially leg-breaking tackles, ducking some shocking mistakes by officials, and have now capped it all by setting the scene for an unedifying public order shambles on a weekend when dignity should be paramount.
The FA have turned their own cup
competition into a breeding ground for bitterness and acrimony after
some terrible match scheduling calls with the TV companies.
Shambles: The FA Cup is in the spotlight this weekend
The end result could well be the sound of hostile jeers ringing around
Wembley during what should be a respectful tribute to 96 people who lost
their lives at a football match. And what a miserable outcome that
On Saturday, Liverpool and Everton meet at Wembley in the FA Cup
semi-final. They are playing on the Saturday because the following day,
April 15, is the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and ever since
the tragedy the club have kept this date free for a memorial service at
Anfield. This has caused controversy in itself.
‘Why can’t they just get on with their lives,’ is a common and, frankly,
dumb response. Many people would like to get on, but they are still
campaigning to discover what really happened at Hillsborough a full 23
years later. Maybe when that happens, they’ll have a chance.
Comedian and actor Alan Davies went a stage further, getting carried
away somewhat in a silly podcast rant: ‘Liverpool and the 15th – that
gets on my t*ts that sh*t. What are you talking about, “We won’t play on
the day,” why can’t they’
It’s quite simple really, Alan. Liverpool hold a memorial service for
the 96 dead on the 15th each year. The management, the players and staff
attend, along with the survivors, families, fans of other clubs and
those who want to pay their respects.
Some things are more important than sport and, besides, there wouldn’t be much of a team available to kick a ball about.
So the Mersey derby is being held 24 hours earlier, with fans of both
clubs travelling down from the north west at the crack of dawn to be in
London for a 12.30pm Saturday kick-off. More on that idiotic timing
But, whatever their allegiances on the day, both the red and blue half
of Liverpool will know somebody who lost a loved one or was affected by
Hillsborough, so the minute’s silence and organised tributes will be
honoured appropriately before kick-off.
Now roll on to Sunday night to the second semi-final between two London clubs and it’s shaping up to be more of a mess.
Circumstances and FA cock-ups mean Chelsea and Tottenham will be
reluctantly shoved out on stage at 6pm. Chelsea are particularly
aggrieved since they face mighty Barcelona in the Champions League
semi-final on Wednesday – and cannot comprehend why the FA have lumbered
them with such a late start.
Fearing the worst: Chelsea face the might of Messi and Co just three days after their semi-final
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE
Interim manager Roberto Di Matteo said he was ‘disappointed and angry’,
accusing the FA of abandoning the only English club left in European
competition. They asked to shift the match to Friday, or earlier on
Sunday. These requests were ignored.
Chelsea’s hierarchy are blaming the FA. The fans have picked up on the
mood and blame Liverpool too for refusing to contemplate playing on
It’s a dispute that will rumble on right through to the Barca game. And,
armed with that sense of perceived unfairness, supporters have been
threatening to disrupt the minute’s silence in protest.
In an ideal world, good grace would prevail and the majority of decent
people in the ground would shame the unruly minority into a hush. But
with a full day’s drinking on offer prior to this unusually late weekend
kick-off, that idea is something of a leap of faith.
If order and calm aren’t realistic prospects, the minute’s silence
itself should be dropped with black armbands being a suitable symbol of
respect by the two London clubs. It’s not as if it’s essential.
all, Manchester United and Aston Villa also play on Sunday, but there is
no silence planned for that 4pm fixture.Yet, everyone at the FA is ploughing ahead regardless, hoping for the best, ignoring the inevitable.
I admit here, this is a column where I’d be quite happy to be proved
wrong. I hope that, by 6.01pm on Sunday, it’s a fuss about nothing.
Yet the tone of the online forums suggests otherwise.
A few of the printable snippets are:
‘A minute’s silence for our game Is this for real’
‘Not if my airhorn and I have anything to do with it.’
‘They’d hold a minute’s silence if their car battery died.’
Day of remembrance: Liverpool never play on April 15
The point of Paul…
When Paul Scholes came out of retirement it was said to be a sign of ‘weakness’ at Manchester United.
Now the midfielder is supposedly the key to their title ambitions.
Doesn’t that pretty much prove the point
And so on. We will discover if the trolls carry through their threats. The wonder is why the FA have given them the opportunity.
Football officials are terrified of being cast as ‘insensitive’, so much
so that it is practically impossible to go to a match these days
without some silent homage tripping you up with more emotional strings
than you’d find if Pinocchio slept with Vanessa Mae.
Public displays of compassion are now deemed mandatory, even two decades or more on.
But Anfield will hold its moving annual service. Saturday’s Liverpool v
Everton affair will be a poignant tribute. Any gestures the FA make
beyond this is more about image than genuine grief.
Besides, if the FA really cared about fans, they would not be playing an all-Mersey semi-final at Wembley.
To make it in time, tens of thousands of supporters will clamber on
board a coach down to London at 5am. Or they will drive instead, which
is an expensive exercise. Service station prices are currently something
like 7 a litre. And that’s just for a Pepsi. Actual petrol is 400.
The simplest solution would have been to stage Liverpool v Everton at a
neutral venue nearer home, such as Old Trafford or Villa Park.
But the FA have 757million of stadium debts to pay. And they will turn
supporters upside down and empty the coins out of their pockets at the
turnstiles to do it.
Just not during the minute’s silence, if you please.
Arduous journey: Both sets of fans will have to set off in the early hours
Bahrain's PR in overdrive
They are burning pictures of Bernie Ecclestone in Bahrain. They tried to burn effigies of the Formula One promoter but the little dolls were so small they went up in flames in seconds.
Hopefully, this is the only heat Bernie will feel after deciding to press ahead and take the Grand Prix circus to Bahrain in the face of persistent anti-Government unrest in the Arab State.
‘There’s nothing happening,’ said Ecclestone.
That’s all right, then.
One voice advising the teams to go to the Middle East was John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, forced to resign in the phone-hacking scandal. Yates claimed Bahrain is ‘safer than London’. Having been hired to oversee Bahrain’s security forces, it’s fair to think ‘well he would say that, wouldn’t he’
But, aside from Yates’ spin, did you know that Bahrain has asked more then 10 public relations companies to try and restore its reputation
Meanwhile, there are good doctors and nurses locked away in Bahraini prisons for doing nothing more than treat injured protesters during the violent street clashes that flared up this time last year. Amnesty International have condemned the punishment as ‘ludicrous’, yet they remain in jail.
I wonder if those medics will be able to hear the cars from their cell Maybe we should call the PR companies
Nothing happening You can say that again, Bernie.
Pull the other one, Bernie: Ecclestone denied there were problems in Bahrain
The science of Aintree
My Grand National bets this weekend are the grey, Neptune Collonges, and the in-form Planet Of Sound, who finished third in the Hennessy. I’m backing both each way after a geological survey of the likely going, a painstaking trawl through the form guide – and then ignoring all that and deciding that I liked the vaguely astronomical theme of their names. It’s a scientific method of sorts. But if you want my failsafe Grand National tip, it is this – save your money. It never fails.
Fool's gold, Murray
Andy Murray says he believes winning tennis gold at the London 2012 Olympics would be ‘bigger than winning a Grand Slam’.
Only it wouldn’t. It never has been and it never will be.
Winning an Olympic gold medal would be a proud moment, one to treasure, but a footnote in history nonetheless.
Let me demonstrate. You might be able to remember who won gold in Beijing four years ago, since it was Rafa Nadal. He beat Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez in the final. I doubt you watched it, however.
Now name the previous winner in Athens No, me neither. It was Chile’s Nicolas Massu. Before that at Sydney 2000, Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia walked off with the gold. Who could forget that Everybody.
So even allowing for a healthy dollop of home-country patriotism, the tennis will be like the Olympic football competition. Everyone will get excited and it might seem important at the time, but compared to winning a World Cup it would be nothing.
If Murray became Wimbledon men’s champion he would be remembered for all time. It would be the pinnacle of achievement in his sport.
If he won the Olympics, he’d have a lovely medal.