We finally have a date for Arsenal’s FA Cup replay against Hull City, and it’s a slightly surprising one.
The fixture hasn’t been arranged for next midweek (which would’ve given fans little notice and meant our game against Swansea City needed rearranging) and it won’t be played just two days after our north London derby at White Hart Lane.
No, instead the game in Hull will take place on Tuesday 7th March, giving Arsenal two days between the clash in N17 and the FA Cup match. Kicking off at 19:00, the match will (if it doesn’t go to extra-time) be over in time to give viewers the chance to catch the end of the same evening’s Champions League fixtures, a surprising compromise from UEFA.
The governing body of European football, UEFA generally don’t allow high profile games to be played at the same time as Champions League matches. However, with Arsenal and Hull both having busy schedules, there was little choice.
Other options were considered but it appears the FA remained strong in negotiations and completely blocked suggestions to play the game on Monday 6th March, which wouldn’t have suited the players, and at 17:45 rather than 19:00, which wouldn’t have suited the fans.
“Both clubs are challenging for honours and require the best available preparation time. As such, Monday 7 March was ruled out as an option,” says an article on the FA website.
“It is recognised that this match will be partially played when UEFA have a scheduled programme of European fixtures and if there were any suitable alternatives, The FA would have warmly accepted these.
“There was an option for a 5.45pm kick off, however, the spirit of The FA Cup is strongly defined by the supporters and an earlier time would have significantly impacted on fans’ attendance. This was not a viable solution.”
In the past, Champions League games were not as spread out at the last 16 stage so there wasn’t an issue with finding a spare midweek, but the change to Champions League scheduling makes it almost impossible to have domestic midweek games which don’t clash.
It’s encouraging that UEFA have conceded ground for once, it seems a rarity for them, but you can’t help but feel their happiness to work with the FA on this occasion is a one-off.
The FA statement was heavy in comment on fixture lists which are too demanding and congested, so have UEFA agreed to co-operate this one time with the proviso that FA Cup replays are set to be scrapped in the near future so this problem never arises again?
Cynical as it may be, I just can’t see UEFA working so that others benefit without getting something out of it themselves.
“The FA recognises that this is not an ideal solution for everyone,” the post begins. It suits Arsenal and Hull just fine, so it’s UEFA who feel the situation isn’t ideal. So what are they getting out of it?