FERGIE: CUP FINAL KICK-OFF IS RIDICULOUS
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has blasted the decision to break with tradition and shunt the FA Cup final out of its 1500 BST slot.
Tomorrow's Wembley showdown between Chelsea and Liverpool will kick off at 1715, the first time the game has been scheduled for Saturday evening, the time broadcasters feel they get maximum exposure.
For the second season running it will be played on the same day as a Premier League fixture, although at least the early-evening start does mean there will be a few hours between the end of Arsenal's encounter with Norwich at the Emirates Stadium, unlike last year, when Manchester United were celebrating their Premier League title win at Blackburn as Manchester City were starring in the showpiece against Stoke.
Even so, Ferguson is unimpressed.
"Look at the FA Cup final, a 5.15 kick-off, it's absolutely ridiculous," he said.
"They have changed the FA Cup time for the most prestigious cup competition in the world just to get an audience.
"It's bedlam down there now. We owe so much for the revenue that television can bring us that they dominate us.
"The only saving grace we've got is at least we all play at the same time on the last day of the season."
For once Ferguson's words are likely to strike a chord with Liverpool supporters, whose travel plans have only been made more complicated due to engineering works that have badly affected the number of direct trains heading back to Merseyside.
Yet it is part of a wider argument from the United manager, who has frequently complained about the over-reaching influence of TV on the timing of fixtures, which often work to the detriment of English clubs.
Not that the clubs themselves are above manipulating events themselves, as Coventry proved in 1977, when they delayed the kick-off of their game against Bristol City so they knew what had to be done to survive long before their own final whistle.
"It's very hard to completely control all of these things," said Ferguson.
"There are 10 games next Sunday and four or five of them will be vital. You've got the teams at the bottom trying to avoid relegation, those attempting to get into the Champions League and possibly ourselves and City.
"How do you control the start of the second half?
"You go back a few years ago when Manchester City got a corner and Brian Horton was telling them to take their time against Liverpool, not knowing their opponents had scored and they ended up going down.
"You're out of control with a lot of things today, including television."
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