Saturday June 3 should have been a date to savour for football lovers.
The FA Cup final will be given added spice given that it’s the two Manchester clubs, City and United, that are set to do battle at Wembley Stadium.
And on the very same day, the Derby – one of the most beloved British Classics on the Flat circuit – will be contested at Epsom Racecourse.
But Scrooge-like union bosses have confirmed that there will be a set of rail strikes confirmed for June 3, which would create travel chaos for those looking to attend the two events.
Amongst the train companies affected are Northern Trains, West Midlands and East Midlands Railways plus a number of firms operating in London, which may prevent fans thinking up a workaround.
The situation could be eased somewhat by the Football Association’s decision to move the FA Cup final kick-off time forward to 3pm for the first time in more than a decade – the game has been designated ‘high risk’ status by Metropolitan Police given that it’s two rivals doing battle.
But an absence of trains from Manchester to London will likely force fans to use supporters’ buses – that would cause carnage in and around the capital, with at least 80,000 people expected to descend on London from the north.
Fan groups of both clubs have joined forces to urge the government and unions to find a solution.
“We need all modes of transport available to cope with the level of demand and the railways are a key part of that,” said the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust.
“We call on the Government and the trade union to get round the table and find a way to avert this industrial action.”
The situation of having the FA Cup final and the Epsom Derby on the same day is that both are televised by ITV – based on the original timeline, there would have been just 15 minutes between the Derby and the start of the football.
But both events have now been moved – the FA Cup final, as we know, to 3pm, with the Derby switched from its traditional 4:30pm slot to a temporary new starting time of 1:30pm.
The Jockey Club, who oversee the Derby, had no real choice but to move the start time to avoid conflicting schedules with the FA Cup, while helping to ward off travel chaos in the Epsom area.
It means that the so-called ‘greatest Flat race in the world’ will now be the second of an eight-race card, with the action getting underway at 12:50pm.
The general manager at Epsom Racecourse, James Crespi, did his best to put a brave face on the situation.
“This year, the first Saturday in June will play host to two Derbys [sic] and two of Britain’s great sporting events.
“We are grateful to our partners at ITV and our generous sponsors Betfred for their help in facilitating the move, and we can’t wait for what is sure to be a great afternoon for British sport.”