FA Cup semi-finals

The FA Cup semi-finals are played to determine which teams will contest the FA Cup Final. They are the penultimate phase of the FA Cup, the oldest football tournament in the world.

Location

Since 2008, the new Wembley Stadium has been the home of the FA Cup semi-final.

The semi-finals have always been contested at neutral venues. Since 2008, all semi-finals have been held at Wembley. In the past any suitably large ground which was not the home ground of a team in that semi-final was used. Villa Park in Birmingham, Old Trafford in Manchester, and Hillsborough in Sheffield were common hosts. All semi-finals between 1871 and 1881 were played at Kennington Oval. The first neutral semi-final match outside London took place in 1882 in Huddersfield.[1]

The 1989 semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, Sheffield, turned into tragedy when 96 supporters were killed in the stands due to overcrowding.[2] The Hillsborough disaster had wide-ranging effects on future stadium design. Liverpool were granted a special dispensation to avoid playing their 2012 semi-final match against Everton on the 23rd anniversary of the disaster.[3]

The 1991 semi-final between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur was the first to be played at Wembley, the traditional venue for the FA Cup Final. Two years later both semi-finals were held at Wembley after the Steel City derby between Sheffield clubs Wednesday and United was switched from the original venue of Elland Road, Leeds. This was repeated in 1994, although a replay between Manchester United and Oldham Athletic was held at Maine Road, Manchester.

From 1995 to 1999 and from 2001 to 2004 other neutral grounds were used, though in 2000 both matches were played at the old Wembley, in its final year of operation. In 2005 both semi-finals were played at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. However, in 2006 the FA decided to revert to the neutral ground system, with Villa Park and Old Trafford hosting the games.

In 2003, it was announced that all future semi-finals would be played at the new Wembley Stadium, once it had opened;[4] this took effect in 2008. The decision was mainly for financial reasons, to allow the FA to recoup some of the costs of rebuilding the stadium. However, the move was opposed by traditionalists and drew criticism from some supporters' groups.[5][6] Over a decade after the move, Aston Villa (amongst others) have called for the semi-finals to be regionalised once again.[7]

Tottenham Hotspur's 2018 semi-final was to some extent a home match for them, as they played their home games at Wembley that season while their new stadium was under construction. However, for the semi-final the FA did not treat them as a home team.[8][9]

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