Stoke City offer fans free transport

Last week it emerged that Stoke City would offer free coach travel to away fans. FSF Chair and Potters fan Malcolm Clarke welcomes the club's initiative and hopes it's a sign of more to come from the football industry...

Football fans know that you have to take the rough with the smooth, particularly away from home. The next loss is just around the corner so make sure you enjoy the taste of victory!

Similarly, while the FSF is never shy about criticising clubs when they get it wrong, I think they deserve a pat on the back when they do a good deed too.

Last week Stoke City announced that they will put on free coach travel for all the club’s away fans during 2013/14. It’s a unique offer and, potentially, could save travelling fans hundreds and hundreds of pounds across the season.

Away fans matter and a central aim of the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign is to make away games more affordable. I'm delighted that football is starting to listen.

I first caught wind of this idea last year and covered it in our 2013 Annual Report (see p.11). At a Premier League meeting in November 2012 Stoke City Chief Executive Tony Scholes came up with two initiatives. They were:

  1. For clubs to agree that away fans should never pay more than the cheapest home ticket, not including the standard discount that season ticket holders receive. Away fans are currently charged the same price as home fans for “comparable accommodation”. That means they can find they pay more than home supporters in the cheapest seats and some clubs have moved away fans to more expensive parts of the ground.
  2. Clubs to provide free away coach travel for all fans. Tony Scholes estimated that this would cost each club around £500,000-£800,000 per season.

Goal.com subsequently reported the consensus among clubs was that decisions on subsidised travel should be made on a club by club basis although “there was an agreement that the issue would be given ‘further consideration’ and a report brought to the shareholders ‘in due course’”.

In the meantime Stoke City have consulted their Supporters’ Council and said, “If other Premier League clubs don’t want to act we’ll just get on with it.” For the interests of openness I should mention that I support Stoke City and Chair the Supporters’ Council! A group of us met Tony Scholes last week when he outlined the club’s plan.

We did chat about other ideas like knocking the figure off ticket prices (not all fans want to travel by coach and it doesn’t benefit exiles) but Stoke City like this proposal because it’s very simple to understand and implement.

Ticket prices are more complex and involve categorisation, negotiations with other clubs and so on. The club also say that 85% of season ticket holders and members live local to Stoke so the large majority can benefit if they so wish. Of course that means some will miss out on the deal, myself included as I now live in Manchester.

However, I’m a big believer in not letting the best be the enemy of the better.

This isn’t a magic bullet but it does make away games a good deal more affordable for some who might otherwise not be able to make it. It shows that clubs can be persuaded to listen to fans.

We need to acknowledge that and encourage the clubs to keep it coming!

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this article.