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It's better to travel

Filed: Thursday, 15th November 2012
By: Kit Robinson

Newcastle United Football Club have an arrangement with local transport to get all fans to the ground for £10 a season. What would be the chances of such a system being implemented between West Ham United and Transport for London or maybe TFL and other or all London clubs?

When you consider how much TFL make from football match travel for a Premier League weekend, it makes your eyes water. An Off-Peak zone 1-4 Oyster Travel Card is £7.70. Approximately 216,000 Londoners will go to watch West Ham, Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, Fulham and QPR. You are looking at potentially £1million a weekend from fans of just Premier League London clubs (excluding a large number of home fans who live close by). The Newcastle transport agreement makes around £500k a year in comparison.

I don't know the exact percentage of West Hams fans who are local, but being as we only have 500 left for Stoke on Monday night when it is being televised (although i know there is also a ticket offer for members etc), that would suggest that the majority of fans are from east London or west Essex. But it is certainly no longer the case that fans all live locally any more. For instance, you only have to look at the cultural demographic for the likes of Upton Park and East Ham to know that only a small number of Asian fans attend matches but they are over 50 per cent of the population of Newham.

A TFL football travel season ticket would be a great idea but would cut out half of our fan base because many are from Essex, so it would also have to work in conjunction with the club and the Essex train companies. But of course, as soon as it was implemented then transport police would be all over Upton Park or Stratford on match days which not only would cause delays but could possibly lead to confrontation.

I know I would not react kindly to being held up before a match, and it would also probably annoy people by holding them up after the long queue at Upton Park when leaving. With regard to Stratford, maybe part of the deal to become hosts at the Olympic Stadium would have to involve a dedicated West Ham entrance/exit to facilitate fans only on match days? Certainly Stratford is far more accessible than Upton Park for transport though, what with the District line often having problems and then of course there is weekend engineering works across the tube network.

I am surprised that the club have not sued TFL for such a poor service to the ground on so many match days over the years. Personally, I travel about 32 miles from one side of London to the other and frankly, there are so many problems, delays and closures that it puts me off going to Upton Park. Itís regularly a 4-5 hour round trip. I am sure there are others like me elsewhere in and out of London, with a similar experience, on a regular basis and so the club are losing potential revenue.

This is maybe not so much of a big deal if Upton Park is sold out but it will be a big deal to the club if we move to Stratford and there are still travel problems. In particular, Sundays when it's likely we would have more matches televised but half of the tube network tends to be shut down.

If 500 people like me choose not to go because it's frankly too much hassle and on TV, thatís an emptier stadium and £20,000 lost on one match, £380,000+ a season. 500 people seems a small number to a stadium we hope to fill with 60k home and away fans but that figure could be much larger. We also have to make sure that away fans have an easier journey or they may also be put off coming in the future, so again there is potentially more lost revenue and a stadium looking emptier than it should. As said, this is less apparent at Upton Park but would be more acutely apparent at Stratford should the move go ahead.

I used to have a season ticket, then i started going to about half of the home matches a season, now i tend to go to more away matches and only four or five home fixtures a season, because it is frankly easier and often cheaper to go to other clubs. It didn't used to bother me about attending televised matches but now I don't go because it takes out most of my day travelling if kick off is not in the evening. I'm happy to dedicate up to three hours maximum travelling a round trip to Upton Park. The problem is that is rarely the case.

I know this may sound like whinging and it is nothing in comparison to the experience of the fans who attended the recently cancelled England away match in Poland or a home match I remember being rained off versus Newcastle where they had travelled down for nothing and must have spent a fortune.

Sometimes as a fan you have to take unpredictable events on the chin (although I certainly think the England fans in Warsaw should have been heavily compensated for the Polish FAís stupidity) but this is a transport problem, it's not down to the elements and it is regularly happening. I feel that at least the club should be compensated if they are let down by the transport franchises, but then of course, they will only be reclaiming any payout to the club from us through their fares, set to rise again in the New Year.

As I write, Premier League Clubs are today discussing salary wage caps for players. It would be nice to think that with such forward thinking and potential radical change, not only should clubs be able to manage their finances and find an easier way to meet the costs of running a club, but similar ideaís such as cheaper transport costs for London fans also be discussed. Ultimately, all of this money comes from us, whether it is Tickets, Merchandise, TV subscriptions etc.

It is a sad fact that I would rather it were easier to get to see West Ham but it could be that only a move to Stratford will facilitate that happening, helped by its better transport links and also Crossrail opening in 2017. But whether the move to the Olympic Stadium happens or not, the club needs to be more proactive about travel problems and travel costs, because ultimately it will cost them lost revenue.

However, from Crossrail to the Olympic Stadium, it is also a sad fact that we know how slow anything takes to organise or for anyone to come to an agreement, in London. Everyone wants a slice of the pie and of course, who will be providing the pie? The fans of course. It would be nice if just for a change, a great agreement could be met similar to that up at Newcastle, which benefits the club, fans and TFL. Unfortunately you just know that if it does ever happen, it will take years to be implemented, the fans will end up being fleeced even more than they are already and it will still be a pretty useless and unpredictable service from TFL.

In a similar way to how the club have stated that their attitude towards the Olympic Stadium would be more seats at a cheaper cost but filling the stadium, TFL need a serious think about revenue lost or gained. What would be better, fans not using London Transport at all by not going to matches or more fans using their services at a cheaper rate? I am sure that fans and the clubs would agree to such a scheme but sadly I feel that TFL would be the problem and like Borisí bike hire scheme, promises will be made about keeping the cost low, only for them to be broken.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Robin Essex
03:19PM 18th Nov 2012
''i travel in from Chelmsford, as a number of fans do, and its either overground to Forest Gate and walk down Green Street or Underground from Hornchurch either way for me and the two kids its about £15 quid. Moving to Stratford would make it easier from Chelmsford direct route, but still adds to expense of the day! Oh and I'm sure TFL is run by Millwall with amount of line closures on District line on home games over the last few years!''

by dbc006
12:48PM 16th Nov 2012
''Schemes similar to this happen in Germany. Where I am in Moechengladbach if you have a match day ticket local transport is either subsidised or free. I find travelling from outside London to and from UP a pain the a**e on matchdays, over 2hrs to get on a train...so I don't go that often, would it be any better at Stratford?''

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