Fare deals for fans are long overdue

Meet the campaigners battling to get football back on track.

Today’s football trains are a farce
Fare do’s Today’s football trains are nothing like those from black and white times, such as this one at London’s King’s Cross that took Arsenal fans to Huddersfield for the FA Cup semi-final against Grimbsy on March 21, 1936. (Arsenal won 1-0.) Image Picture E. Dean/Topical Press

There are a million valid moans to be had by football fans about how they’re treated by the game’s authorities.

Kick-off times, ticket prices (especially for away fans), the frequency of replica kit changes – all are a disgrace. The FA, the Premier League, the Football League and the clubs all obviously seem to be shirking responsibility.

If there’s one other area that should be easy to sort it’s getting fans to games by train. Except, this is England, where nothing runs on time.

Considering the number of blame-shifting spineless wallopers who run football, it’s little surprise the number of blame-shifting spineless wallopers who run our train network only add to the confusion. But recent events suggest train companies are starting to muck fans about deliberately.

“There’s so much money coming into the game from TV rights Premier League clubs could easily subsidise fans’ train travel”

The most ridiculous example came in August when the new Coventry Ricoh Arena train station opened next to Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena ground. There was just one snag: local train operators London Midland were only able to fit 75 passengers on the tiny trains that run through the station. There was only one train an hour, and City get average gates of 9,300.

Police were understandably worried about so many fans trying to cram on to carriages, so they closed the station – which was designed for football match fan travel – for an hour after games finished. The reaction? “We’re advising fans to use existing bus routes,” said an impressively unembarrassed London Midland spokesman.

Britain could learn a thing or three from mainland Europe’s public transport
German efficiency Fans arrive with military precision by train at the Munich Stadium to watch Germany play Costa Rica in the opening game of the FIFA World Cup on June 9, 2006. Image Picture Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) is leading the charge to get fans sorted. “There’s plenty more that the authorities could do about all this,” spokesman Michael Brunskill told Loaded. “The problem is, with so many different train companies involved in Britain, it’s hard to have any unified approach.”

In Germany train travel is often free with each ticket bought for a match, something the FSF would love to see copied in England.

Brunskill added, “There’s so much money coming into the game from TV rights that Premier League clubs could easily subsidise fans’ train travel.”

“Every time a fan buys a train ticket it’s a gamble”

The FSF are starting to see some small signs of progress. In the North East, Virgin Trains have begun selling Matchday Tickets, which mean if the date of a game is switched then your ticket is still valid.

As Brunskill says, “We’d love to see that introduced on a country-wide basis by all the train operators.”

As for Coventry City’s farce? “That’s, er, short-sighted all round,” said Brunskill. “I’m sure London Midland and Coventry’s local council can give a million reasons as to why that’s happened, but it doesn’t look great.” The FSF are also angry at the football authorities for allowing TV companies to change kick-off times at the last minute.

“Sky and BT Sport can change the day a game takes place with just four weeks’ notice in the Football League,” Brunskill added. “By then, loads of fans will have already bought tickets because they’re so much cheaper when booked in advance. But the train companies won’t refund you if the game gets moved from a Saturday to a Friday for TV coverage. It means that every time a fan buys a train ticket, it’s a gamble.”

 

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Loaded’s deputy editor John Earls has covered entertainment and sport across a range of national newspapers, plus several football and music magazines, since 1990. Follow him on Twitter at @EarlsJohn

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