The Manchester United Supporters Trust have released a statement complaining about the scheduling of their FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Yeovil Town. The two sides will meet on Friday 26th January, with a 7.55p.m. kick-off chosen to enable live coverage of the match on BBC One. This leaves visiting supporters with a lengthy journey from the North-West (in theory!) where they are expected to take up a full allocation of around 2,000 tickets.
Manchester United's previous round tie against Derby County also took place on a Friday night, although on this occasion the broadcasting companies couldn't be blamed. The game was switched to an evening kick-off due to Manchester City also being drawn at home at the same stage, meaning that it was Derby's supporters who predominantly suffered.
The Trust will doubtless have been irritated that the choice of the Yeovil Town tie for live broadcasting has reinstated the near permanent scheduling of their club's matches on live television. When the Derby game was not chosen, it broke a 13-year run of 58 consecutive televised FA Cup matches involving the Red Devils. The last match not selected had been the January 2005 match against Exeter City at Old Trafford, which the broadcasters had incorrectly assumed would be a walkover - they later changed their minds when the Grecians secured a replay.
A statement by the Trust calls for either the Football Association or their parent club to put on free transport for their supporters to avoid the problems of not being able to use public transport across a single day, due to it being a night game:
"Yet again broadcasters have totally ignored the impact on away fans when considering what will be best for television ratings. Although this is far from just a problem in the FA Cup, we would urge the FA to look at mitigating against such issues in future contracts. If the FA and clubs get a huge chunk of additional revenue due to a game being on TV, the least they could do is to lay on free transport for away fans who are affected by the game being moved."
It's worth noting that the Thorne Lane closures may present a different obstacle for both sets of supporters on the night of the game. The road is not only a popular access route to the stadium, it also provides some of the parking options on matchdays. Whilst we're sure that Wessex Water and Somerset County Council will get petitioned to temporarily lift the restrictions, it may be that they can only do that partially, having already commenced the works prior to the FA Cup draw taking place.
Both clubs will pocket a £144,000 Broadcast Fee to ease the pain of being chosen for live coverage.
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