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Who are the champions of football travel?

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) is an independent charity providing well-researched, practical solutions to transport problems. Of late the Campaign has been looking at how football fans get to matches and what problems they have getting there without a car. More from CfBT below…

A survey of more than 1,000 fans and a study of how well (or badly) different grounds are served by public transport helped us put together a league table with some surprising results – the champions on the pitch weren’t necessarily the best at helping fans with more choices in how to get to watch their heroes.

We also looked at good examples from other industries and countries – such as the well-known German system where a match ticket will get you to the game for free on public transport over a wide area – and at what several stadiums learned from being used as venues during the 2012 Olympics. Our recommendations show that a lot can be done to make getting from door to turnstile easier.

league table3League table:

  • Our top 3 were Newcastle United, Arsenal and Fulham. Newcastle are worthy transport champions with initiatives including season-long matchday public transport for just £10.
  • Gunners’ fans make full use of good public transport links, and travel planning since the move to the Emirates has reduced the percentage of fans arriving by car from 30% to 10%.
  • In the relegation zone were Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers, with Reading coming bottom of the table.
  • Old Trafford’s travel plan is nearly a decade out of date and QPR isn’t making the most of London’s public transport links, while Reading has the least accessible ground of all – the Madejski Stadium is miles out of town and surrounded by motorways with almost no public transport links except on match days.

Key survey findings:

  • 23% of fans spend more on travel than they do on a match ticket. Fans travelling by train spend the most and fans that get to the game by walking, cycling and bus spend the least.
  • The average fan spends £55 on match day, with £13 going on travel, while train travellers spend £74, with £26 of this spent getting to the game. Fans in cars largely share the driving and spend £50 each on the average matchday.
  • For home games, 43% of fans drive, with 35% taking the train for at least part of their journey. For away fixtures, 57% take the train for at least some games, 44% drive and 20% travel by coach.
  • Train travel is by far the most popular mode that fans ‘would like to use more’ (36%), followed by the bus (23%) and the tram or tube (17%).
  • Of the people who said they would like to use public transport more, cost was the most common barrier with prices named by 28% of fans who gave a reason.

CfBT recommendations for action include:

  • For Clubs: All clubs should have a travel plan that includes plans for new facilities to improve access by walking and cycling and clear information about getting to the ground without a car.
  • For local authorities: Should actively work to link clubs, the wider community and transport providers together to plan and provide better and cheaper links, including walking and cycling routes.
  • For transport operators: Better services and more flexibility are key. Operators should talk to fan representatives and help to offer more tailored services that co-ordinate with matches. It’s clear that a national Football Supporters’ Railcard with more flexible conditions for advance fares would be very popular.
  • For national bodies: The German KombiTicket is a model that the UK would benefit from and a similar system was used during the Olympics. The government and football authorities should take the lead in getting this initiative going for football fans and other events here.

With this report and survey, we’ve shown that there are huge differences between how clubs, towns and cities help make travel better, and revealed some excellent initiatives already in place that more areas could copy. We hope that our recommendations will be taken up and promoted by clubs, local authorities, transport operators and the fans themselves.

Thanks to htakashi for the image reproduced under CC license.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author – they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF. Have your say below and play nice…


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