The Premier League football season starts this weekend with a report warning that fans face being priced out of the game before they even reach the turnstiles. And Manchester City’s opponents on Monday Newcastle United may have endured a troubled season last year mired in a relegation battle, but they have managed to top a table of transport options for football fans transport needs, according to the report of a survey carried out by the Campaign for Better Transport and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF). So if, like me, you’re planning on travelling to a match this weekend you might be interested to see how your club fared in the transport league table below.
The report praised Newcastle United for demonstrating the many and varied ways football clubs, local authorities and transport providers can work together to improve match-day travel for fans, local people and the city as a whole.
But what makes for worse reading is the lowly placings of the two Manchester clubs –Manchester City 13th and Manchester United languishing in 18th –meaning that this proud footballing city is subject to some of the poorest and most limited options of all the Premier League’s fans.
This clearly has an impact not just on the travelling football supporters –more than 650,000 each week in the Premier League alone according to the report –but also on the local communities for whom Matchday can be a massive inconvenience.
Newcastle United have demonstrated how we can get football supporters out of their car and onto public transport through innovative schemes such as their “Altoonative Travel” website and the £10 per season “Magpie Mover” matchday travel ticket. Both of which help fans to make use of Tyne and Wear’s public transport network, which can surely be made better use of here in Manchester. To their credit Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) did identify the need to enhance the Metrolink facilities and have recently invested substantially in an extension of the metrolink line to the Etihad Stadium where there is a new dedicated stop to allow passengers easier access to the football ground. TfGM have also launched a new matchday season ticket initiative with Manchester City encouraging fans to use public transport.
But the the question remains, what can we do to improve the situation in Manchester and at grounds all over the country? Here the report first targets the clubs, recommending them to outline a travel strategy including plans for new facilities to improve access by walking and cycling (surely a priority in Manchester with its new status as a Cycling Super City) as well as clear information about getting to the ground without a car. Second, the report targets local authorities, recommending that they actively work to link the clubs, the wider community and transport providers together to bring about better and cheaper links. And finally, the report calls upon the transport operators themselves to provide better and more flexible services. One concrete suggestion was for the introduction of a national Football Supporters’ Railcard with more flexible conditions for advance fares.
If the Premier League needs any inspiration they should be looking to Germany.
Last year I travelled to Dortmund v City paying 25 euro for my matchday ticket. German match day tickets allow fans to travel free on regional and local public transport. Flying into Dusseldorf I travelled FREE to Dortmund train station and again FREE to the stadium on the local train. This is amazing value considering my match ticket cost 25 euros!
I’ve written to TfGM urging them to take steps like this to make it easier and cheaper for fans to travel to the game without a car.
With 23% of fans spending more on travel to games than tickets for the match this is clearly erecting a barrier to wider participation and enjoyment of the beautiful game. By making just some of these changes we can make travel to football matches both cheaper and quicker. By getting people out of their cars and onto public transport we can also alleviate concerns and pressures over parking and make the whole process a lot more environmentally friendly. The solutions seem to me to be both common sense and win-win. Here’s hoping we can get both Manchester teams back to the top of both the Premier League and the Travel League, with perhaps City pipping United to the post again.