Why are FA Cup semi finals played at Wembley Stadium? Explaining England’s new tournament tradition
The chance to play at Wembley Stadium can be a once in a career opportunity for many professional footballers with the iconic ‘home of English football’ reserved for huge matches.
Wembley is the home stadium for England’s national teams, alongside playing host to all major finals in domestic club competitions, and promotion finals from different levels of the English Football League.
However, following the stadium’s redevelopment, the FA announced the bold move to also play all FA Cup semifinal matches at the stadium, alongside the final itself, from 2008 onwards.
The decision proved controversial in its early stages, with fans objecting to extra travel and the removal of high stakes matches being played outside of London, but opposition has fluctuated in recent seasons.
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Why are FA Cup semifinals played at Wembley Stadium?
The decision to move FA Cup semifinals away from the traditional setting of neutral club grounds was made in 2007 as the FA aimed to generate income from ticket sales at the new 90,000-capacity arena.
During the Premier League era, semifinal clashes were held at venues including Elland Road, Highbury, Villa Park, Old Trafford and Hillsborough, as well as the old Wembley and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, depending on the geographical location of the teams competing.
However, every FA Cup semifinal since the start of 2007/08 has been held at Wembley, regardless of where the competing teams are based.
Why have fans objected to FA Cup semi finals at Wembley?
Fans of teams playing in the FA Cup semifinals have been frustrated by the FA’s decision to move the games to Wembley for a host of reasons.
One element of the objections is based around the traditional connection with the oldest domestic knockout cup competition in world football.
Fans were unhappy at the removal of a historic element of the ‘game before Wembley’ being held at one of the most famous provincial grounds in the country.
The goal. The celebration. Simply iconic.
21 years ago today, Ryan Giggs scored one of the greatest ever FA Cup goals👇 pic.twitter.com/ILqxBWPZ4n
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) April 14, 2020
The prospect of ‘earning’ the right to play at Wembley was a key aspect of FA Cup campaigns with that factor now brought forward to the semifinal stage.
Alongside more nostalgic reasons, supporters have justifiably objected to the move, due to logistical and travel issues surrounding semifinal trips to the nation’s capital.
Liverpool’s 2022 semifinal against Manchester City was a key example, with fans from both sides frustrated by heavily restricted train services in and out of London, owing to strikes and timetable issues.
Famous FA Cup semi finals at Wembley
Despite dividing fan opinion, FA Cup semifinals at Wembley have produced some fantastic encounters over the past 15 seasons.
The 2008 competition featured an unexpected final quartet of Portsmouth, West Brom, Cardiff City and Barnsley, with Portsmouth and Cardiff each winning 1-0.
Four years later, Liverpool defeated arch rivals Everton 2-1 thanks to a late Andy Carroll goal, and Chelsea thrashed Tottenham 5-1 in a one-sided London derby.
📆 #OTD in 2012
🤯 In the 87th minute and with his back to goal, Andy Carroll’s header sent Liverpool straight into the #FACupFinal pic.twitter.com/iMRY72XHhd
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) April 14, 2019
The 2014 semifinal match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal was a nervous occasion for Gunners fans, as Per Mertsacker’s late header forced extra time, before a tight penalty shootout win for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Two brilliant clashes took place in 2017, with Arsenal forced to battle back through Alexis Sanchez’s wondergoal to win 2-1 in extra time against Manchester City, and Chelsea once again getting the better of Spurs in a 4-2 thriller.
Liverpool contribute to the list last season, as they stormed into a 3-0 halftime lead over Man City, and held on to go on and beat Chelsea in the final.
Sadio Mane’s last FA Cup goal for Liverpool was one to remember! 🤩💥
This outrageous semi-final volley will live long in the memory. #BBCFootball pic.twitter.com/zd112tH31V
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 17, 2022