Rail minister Andrew Jones has said that flexible football-specific rail tickets are “within reach” for Premier League fans, and the scheme could be extended to the EFL.
Match-going supporters are currently in a bind when it comes to rail tickets – booking early for the cheapest fixed date tickets is always a risk with such a high proportion of games moved for TV.
However, the rail industry is now considering introducing tickets which would be tied to specific football games, rather than dates, giving fans extra flexibility and peace of mind.
Reports suggest that the scheme could be introduced as early as next season and the proposal follows behind-the-scenes talks between the Department for Transport and the Premier League.
Supporters’ groups were at the forefront of the flexible fare concept, the FSF campaigned alongside the Campaign for Better Transport as far back as 2013, and FSF chair Malcolm Clarke said it was vital that fans were involved in designing any schemes.
“The FSF broadly welcomes this initiative, it’s something that was originally proposed by fan groups and it’s therefore vital that we’re involved in its planning,” said Clarke.
“Fans use the rail network week in, week out to get to games. We know what works and what doesn’t, so we have to be part of the detailed discussions.
“It is also important that any initiative is extended beyond the top-flight – there are almost as many EFL and National League games moved for TV as Premier League. “
The issue of flexible rail tickets gained the Labour Party’s support in 2017 and shadow sport minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan raised the issue in the House of Commons last month before launching a petition with the FSF.
That prompted rail minister Andrew Jones to respond that he was willing to explore “flexible ticketing offer for supporters, including for when matches are rescheduled. I am happy to have a conversation with the hon. Lady [Dr Rosena Allin-Khan].”
Today he added: "Football is all about passionate fans, and the last thing loyal supporters deserve is to pay more when matches are rescheduled at the last minute.
"That's why I'm delighted that the Government has helped secure a vital agreement that will bring together clubs, operators and British Transport Police.
"Significant changes are now within reach, which can ensure even more people use our railways to get to games and improve the experience for all passengers on match days.
"To drive this forward, I will be meeting with the Premier League and rail industry shortly to ensure our focus is on delivering a safe, secure and fair railway that works for fans, passengers, the clubs and the operators."
From next season 200 Premier League games will be broadcast in the UK, meaning more than half of all games are moved for TV, netting clubs £4.5bn in domestic media rights.
The FSF has long-argued that clubs have more than enough money to support away fan journeys – it has been raised on many occasions with the Premier League at fan engagement meetings convened by the FSF.
Football and rail industries
Premier League executive director William Bush said: “We are working closely with the Government on an extensive range of schemes, and we are confident there are some truly transformational projects that we can take forward.
“Both the Premier League and Government are committed to working hard for a fairer, affordable, safer deal for football fans.
“We continue to work with rail industry leaders on proposals and look forward to setting out a joint way forward which will improve the travelling experience for fans on match days.”
Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer said: “It's not fair that last-minute changes to the match day schedule can increase costs for travelling fans, which is why train companies are working together to see how we can increase flexibility and give people more certainty about their ticket.
“This has to be alongside the ongoing, cross-industry work to tackle anti-social behaviour from an extreme minority of people on match days so that we can ensure everyone travelling can have a comfortable journey.”
The FSF has a representative on the Rail Delivery Group and expects to be fully involved in any further discussions relating to flexible rail tickets and match day rail security issues.
By fans, for fans - join the FSF for free today.
(Image: PA Images)