We understand the scheduling of fixtures over the holiday period presented challenges, especially with Spurs playing at home to Chelsea on 1 Jan. In previous conversations with the FA and the Premier League we have, alongside other fan organisations, frequently questioned the way the scheduling of live games impacts upon fans, and this is a prime example of the problem. We appreciate, too, that the playing and coaching staff must ensure there is appropriate recovery time between games. But scheduling the game on Sunday 4 January would have meant the game was played three days after the Chelsea match, and at a time when it would have easier for travelling supporters to attend.
Our understanding is that both Burnley and Spurs were happy for the game to go ahead on 4 January. But, as the Club's statement said, there were "police and stewarding issues" that meant Sunday was not possible. We have asked the Club to clarify what those issues were. We have yet to receive a reply. We have also contacted Lancashire Police to ask what those issues were. We have yet to receive a reply.
The possibility of a cup tie between Accrington Stanley and Manchester United on the 4 January has been mentioned frequently as a possible reason why the Burnley v Spurs tie could not go ahead on that day. We have asked Lancashire Police if it is true that they did not have the resources to deal with two football matches in the same county on the same day. We have yet to receive a reply.
In the event, Accrington Stanley were knocked out of the cup, meaning there will be no match at Accrington on 4 Jan. The Yeovil v Accrington Stanley game was played on the evening that the date of the Burnley v Spurs tie was finally announced. It's possible this is because the FA insisted a decision was made on that morning, rather than waiting until the outcome of the Accrington tie was known. We have asked the FA if this was the case. We have yet to receive a reply.
If the scheduling of the tie for 5 Jan was as a result of the FA's insistence that a decision was made before the outcome of the Accrington tie, we would find that extremely disappointing. In numerous discussions with the FA, we have made the point about the effect of kick-off schedules on fans, and the FA has promised to bear this in mind in order to preserve 'the magic of the cup'. The FA also acknowledged that playing ties after the draw for the next round has been made damages the 'magic of the cup'. And yet this is the situation that we will be in again this year, possibly as a direct result of the FA's action.
After making clear our objections to the scheduling of the tie, we also sought to find the best possible solution for fans who did want to travel. We asked for the possibility of chartering a train, paid for from the Away Fans' Initiative, to be looked into. This train would have taken six hours each way to ferry supporters to and from the game at a cost approaching £40,000. Virgin Trains were also unable and unwilling to provide rolling stock. We asked for the possibility of air travel to be looked at. This would have cost a six-figure sum to take just 120 fans to the game.
So we are stuck with coach travel, taking at least a day's leave, and significant onward travel difficulties. After securing our full allocation, after being denied this for last year's third round tie, and securing a price of £20 for tickets, we had hoped to announce some positive news about this tie. But the timing issue has largely negated that.
We will continue to press for answers from the Police and the FA, and have made the point to THFC that fuller explanations of decisions would help the relationship with fans.
Once again, the football authorities' actions make the fine words about giving the fans more consideration appear little more than lip service. We await answers to our questions from the FA and the Police. And we will update supporters further when we receive them.