Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

FA protect World Cup bid

The English Football Association refused to allow England's 2018 World Cup to be damaged by playing tonight's World Cup qualifier against Andorra without fans present despite the prospect of transport chaos around Wembley

The match will take place with the expected 70,000 fans unable to use Wembley Park station, which will be closed because of the Tube strike.

The first home England game since the 2018 bid was launched last month will go ahead against the backdrop of a public transport nightmare as the FA rejected the possibility of playing the game behind closed doors. The governing body, however, have promised to refund any supporter who decides they cannot face the road gridlock and potential packed trains to Wembley Central.

There were suggestions that FIFA president Sepp Blatter would attend the match which would have potentially been a public relations disaster for the 2018 bid, but he is unable to come.

Nevertheless, the FA took the choice that they could not stop supporters attending just because of the 48-hour strike by the RMT union over pay.

The FA is under no legal obligation to refund tickets, but has done so because it believes it is the right thing to do. The FA chief executive Ian Watmore admitted that the game was going on "in the face of adversity".

The threat of the strike, which began last night, has already meant the crowd has been capped at 70,000 — 20,000 short of capacity

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