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Why don’t the FA and BBC care about match-going fans?

The most realistic option for Manchester United winning silverware this season is victory in the FA Cup. The title is out of reach now, with Manchester City dominating, while defeat in the EFL Cup to Bristol saw them bow out in the quarter-finals.

The Champions League is an option, particularly given than Jose Mourinho has won it twice before with teams that weren’t considered anything close to the best in Europe, but it would require some favourable draws and good luck to see him do it for a third time.

Louis van Gaal ended United’s drought in the FA Cup in 2016 and another win would see United equal Arsenal’s record of 13 victories. Having won the only trophy that United hadn’t won before last season, the Europa League, Mourinho would love to add another record, as well as more silverware, to his CV.

United have been drawn Yeovil in the next round, the lowest ranked team still remaining, which certainly boosts their chances of progressing in the competition. While supporters could be pleased with the easiness of their draw, fans weren’t happy on Thursday when the date of the fixture was announced.

The FA has confirmed that United will face Yeovil on Friday night. If fans were to drive, this would be close to a 10 hour round trip. If travelling by train, United supporters would have to leave Manchester at 2pm and if they were to travel home the same night, couldn’t get a train until after midnight, which would arrive back in Manchester at 10am on Saturday.

This is the latest example of the FA and television companies showing no consideration for match-going fans, with the BBC preferring to show United’s game on the Friday night.

When United played in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton in 2016, the kick-off time was set for 5.15pm on Saturday. Rail engineering works had been planned to take place that day, which the FA were aware of, yet still went ahead with a kick-off time that would have left both teams from the north-west stranded in London. Their only alternative was to spend the night in London or leave the game early. Thankfully, United put on coaches to take the fans to and from the game.

Two years before his retirement, Sir Alex Ferguson acknowledged the power that television had over fixtures.

“When you shake hands with the devil you have to pay the price. Television is God at the moment,” Ferguson said. “You get some ridiculous situations. You ask any manager if they would pick that themselves and there’d be absolutely no chance.”

In the last financial year, United earned £194.1m in television revenue and the price they pay for such a huge sum is having their fixtures dictated by peak viewing times, rather than any consideration going to supporters who attend games.

United have the best away support in the country, with them taking up the full allocation for every fixture, and there is no doubt the same will happen for Yeovil, regardless of the huge inconvenience put on them.

Yet just because the television can control when the game is played, that doesn’t mean they have to choose a time that essentially sticks two fingers up at the fans who are going.

From Mourinho’s perspective, he now has five days between that game and United’s visit to Wembley to play Tottenham Hotspur in the league, which he is likely pleased with. But this is little consolation to the fans making the journey to Yeovil.

Football is nothing without the supporters. It’s a shame that the FA and BBC don’t care about them.

 

By Scott Patterson

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