The Football Association has been accused of prioritising television revenue over supporters' welfare after confirming the all north-west FA Cup final between Wigan and Manchester City on Saturday, 11 May, will kick off at 5.15pm.
The FA's showpiece event will be played on an evening when the last train from London Euston to Manchester is 9pm and 8.31pm for Wigan. Last season engineering work meant Liverpool supporters were unable to catch a direct train back to Merseyside following defeat by Chelsea, prompting the then manager Kenny Dalglish to accuse the FA of lacking respect for fans.
This year, in the event of extra time and penalties both sets of supporters would struggle to catch the last train from Euston, while Wigan fans will be up against it even with a result inside 90 minutes. With the exception of Chelsea's trip to Aston Villa for a 12.45pm kick-off on 11 May, the Premier League programme is again taking place on the Sunday this season to avoid a clash with the Cup final.
Both sets of supporters have hit back at the FA over the kick-off arrangements while the Football Supporters' Federation also condemned the decision. It said in a statement: "Fans of Manchester City and Wigan Athletic are being asked to pay for an overnight stay in London to satisfy the whims of a TV company. 5.15pm FA Cup final kick-offs are extremely unpopular with fans, especially those who have long distances to travel after the match. Part of what makes the FA Cup great is its tradition but that tradition has been eroded over the years thanks to the abolition of replays, too many semis at Wembley, and now, late kick-offs."
Jason Taylor, a Wigan Athletic Supporters Club spokesman, said: "It seems the FA are more interested in what the television companies want than the logistics of supporters getting to and from their final. It's not just us, it affects Manchester City as well. They are only 18 miles away and we will be using the same roads and, if it was possible, train lines. It was a nightmare for the semi-final.
"We expected a late kick-off but the ridiculous thing is the final won't clash with the Premier League programme, which was the original reason for having a late start, as they have already moved those games to the Sunday. But the TV companies want a late time to attract a bigger global audience and that is taking precedence over supporters. We won't have a problem selling our ticket allocation for the final but the day is a lot more difficult for supporters than it needs to be and the FA should consider that. With a 3pm kick-off you would have plenty of time to catch the train even if the final went to extra time and penalties."
Andrew Thomas, 47, chairman of the Ashton-under-Lyne branch of the Manchester City Supporters Club, was also critical. "I think it's absolutely crackers. If it had been two London teams like Chelsea and Millwall then fair enough because they will be home for eight o'clock. Because people have got a four- to six-hour journey to get there and a four- to six-hour journey coming back means some won't be getting home until gone two o'clock in the morning: it's absolutely ludicrous. You don't want kids up at that time of night because they'll be falling asleep.
"We're lucky because we've got a coach booked so we'll be there and back in a day but it's still going to be a late overnighter. And in fact now it might even put our coach fee up because it's going into two days."
The FA's general secretary, Alex Horne, last week defended late kick-off times on the basis of their appeal to a television audience. He said: "We're now used to consuming our football in those time slots. It really works. Lunchtime kick-offs just haven't got the same appeal. The 5.15pm kick-off for the final was really successful. We added a couple of million viewers. It's a sensible compromise."
On Tuesday the FA suggested alternative travel options, in particular its own coach partner. A spokesman said: "National Express are the official coach partner of Wembley Stadium and their service was well received by fans at last season's FA Cup final."
Wigan will work closely with the supporters club to meet demand for coach travel on 11 May. But with City in the same predicament, Taylor fears the cost of travelling to Wembley will be inflated: "As a supporters club we put on coaches for as cheaply as we possibly can. We will cater for everybody who wants to travel by coach for the Cup final – though some people find them claustrophobic and prefer the train – but we might need 70 coaches for Wembley. So will Manchester City. That's 140 coaches being sourced from the same area and that will drive up costs."
Although both sets of supporters agree that the kick-off time should be moved forward, the two sets of management were less worried. City's assistant coach, David Platt, said: "It will be a shame for the ones that get beat. I don't think the ones that win will care too much."
The Wigan manager, Roberto Martínez, defended the FA's decision. "The FA have shown they take the fans into consideration," he countered. "But there are other issues and I'm sure the broadcasters will have a say. I think there are many other aspects than just the fans. If that kick-off time is the case, I'm sure they will look at it from a transport point of view to help the fans and we need to help the fans.
"It's a unique occasion, it's the FA Cup final, we've never been involved before and the last thing I want is to be talking about the time of the kick-off."
• This article was amended on 17 April 2013. The original said train services from London to the north would be disrupted by engineering work on the evening of the FA Cup final. That is not the case.