TENS of thousands of Sunderland fans hoping to descend on Trafalgar Square for a pre-cup final party have had their plans thrown into chaos after it was revealed the area will be closed because of a Russian spring festival.
Organised through online forums and fanzines, Black Cats supporters had decided to meet up for a celebration the night before Sunday’s showdown with Manchester City.
But Trafalgar Square is also playing host to Maslenitsa, a Russian sun festival, this weekend and transport chiefs have advised fans that most of the area will be closed off.
According to the festival’s official website: “Trafalgar Square will be transformed into a bustling bazaar exhibiting and selling original Russian Art, handicrafts and souvenirs, ranging from the traditional to the contemporary.”
Although festivities are taking place throughout this week, the culmination of the event is this Sunday, with organisers expected to be putting the finishing touches to the area on Saturday evening – at the same time as hordes of Wearsiders planned to visit the tourist spot.
Other locations, such as Covent Garden which is half a mile away, are now being mooted as a possible alternative meeting point for fans.
Editor of Seventy3 fanzine, Mal Robinson, told the Echo: “Obviously having a Russian festival on at the same time as Sunderland fans heading to Trafalgar Square is logistically not ideal.
“Covent Garden has been mentioned.However, this may also cause problems with the amount of tourists present there.
“If it were deemed possible, I would personally look at the likes of Hyde Park.
“The one thing I do know is that Sunderland fans are resilient and will find a way.”
Mal, who has released a cup final magazine, Twenty14, this week which is on sale in newsagents, added: “As a magazine, we are looking into alternatives for the fans for Saturday night.”
A spokesman for the Greater London Authority said: “We understand from social media that some Sunderland fans may be planning to meet up in Trafalgar Square on the evening of Saturday, March 1, ahead of their team’s Capital One Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
“While we hope supporters will enjoy a fantastic weekend in London, we are advising fans not to come to Trafalgar Square on Saturday as a large event build will be underway in preparation for the annual Maslenitsa Festival the following day. As a result, the majority of the square will be closed off to the public throughout the day on Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday morning.”