Firstly allow me to start this blog off with an apology. Yesterday was the first day since the new site went up that their was not a blog. I blame National Rail for it as no trains back to London from Swansea after 7.30 meant The Arsenal away support had to spend the night in Wales. And what a night it was.
Millions of football fans travel up and down the country each week for football. Whether it is Arsenal fans using the London Underground to Finsbury Park, Manchester United fans getting a Virgin train out of Euston to go to Old Trafford, or the loyal away fans of every club getting a train from which far fetched corner of the country they live to whichever far fetched country they are going to. Football fans are hugely reliant on public transport.
The private companies running the trains also benefit big time from football fans. Were it not for football fans, there trains would be nearly empty of a weekend. I would estimate that football fans put over £100 million into the pockets of these train companies. We are key customers for them.
Therefore, I am questioning why we are treated so badly by the train companies. I will not mention the awful British Transport Police, as we all know they create more problems than they solve. It is the train companies themselves who get right up my goat.
The last 2 away days have been to Sunderland and Swansea. And what a nightmare they have been for the travelling fans. At Sunderland, you have to get the train from Newcastle to get back to London. East Coast trains decided to schedule their last train out of Newcastle to London at 5.50pm. This gave fans less than an hour to get out of the stadium, walk to either Sunderland or St Peters Station, do the 20 minute tram to Newcastle, walk to Newcastle station, buy beer and find the train. Talking to a few supporters, they were leaving the game 10 minutes early to ensure they got this train. Failure to do so would have resulted in a 5 hour 3 train journey taking you via Sheffield & Loughborough before getting into London at midnight.
It would have been very easy for the train companies to put on 1 more train at around 6.15, just to ease the pressure. Make life a little easier. But they did not.I bet if One Direction were playing in the Gateshead Arena they would have done, or if the athletics was on there would have been an extra train, but when it comes to football fans…no chance. The Sunderland train ticket cost us nearly £100 – more on this later.
This was not a unique experience. As mentioned, we had to stay in Swansea due to the lack of public transport after the game. The last train out of Swansea was at 19.32. Impossible to get unless you left early. All that was needed was a train 15-20 minutes later and everyone would have been all right.
But no, the train companies do not treat football fans like human beings. They clearly have a ‘stuff you’ attitude. Knowing that fans will attempt to get to the game not matter what, they become inflexible and do not do anything to help a fan out.
Then we come to the cost. The average away game outside of London costs £50-£100 to get to. When you take into the rising cost of ticket prices, you are looking at an away day now costing between £150-£200 once you add in food and a couple of drinks. I went to Benidorm for a week, all inclusive, including flights, for £250 a few years back.
And flights is another thing. Easy Jet, Ryan Air, British Airways, and more, all hyke the price of a flight up when it comes to away fans. Return tickets for Dortmund were north of £200 within minutes of the scheduling being announced. If you went another random mid-week, it would cost £50. How can they justify this? If it was not football fans, the European Commission would be getting involved and telling these companies that they can not fix prices like this.
And again, the airline operators should be grateful. If it was not for football, they would not sell any flights to Naples on a Tuesday from London. Rather then be happy with a few extra bob made from a football game, they have become greedy, knowing some fans will pay whatever just to go to the game. It is unfair.
Luckily we live in London, so can get nearly anywhere without too many changes. I do feel for fans over other clubs who often have to come into London just to get elsewhere. Adding to the cost and time.
Train companies, stop scheduling non-essential engineering works on match days. Put on later trains. And everyone stop putting up prices and screwing every penny out of football fans.
It is time the train companies helped the football fans out. Continually screwing them over is not good for anyone. They need us. We need them.
Ps: the ironic thing is I’ve written this whilst my train has been delayed by 30 minutes due to overrunning engineering works between Clapham Junction and Twickenham.