I am a Season Ticket holder in the MHU and also an away season ticket holder.
Having taken early retirement, this matter is less of a problem for me than others in terms of time and other commitments, but I feel strongly that it needs to be addressed.
This note attempts to build on a passionate piece @daspecial_1 (Sam) wrote on ‘Vital Chelsea’ after hearing the Blackpool game was today moved from a Saturday to the following Monday, and also the Twitter inputs of @chelsea_vicar, @TheChelsOrg, @bryanjones63, @PMOve and others.
This is designed to provoke comment/ideas, not necessarily solve the problem.
Rearranged games have meant that Chelsea are in the middle of a glut of midweek away games outside London. Four (Wolves, Bolton, Sunderland and Blackpool) are scheduled in the nine weeks between 5th January and 7th March (in addition to Fulham away which is usefully scheduled on Valentines Night, also a Monday).
Chelsea have no weekend away games between Spurs on 12th December and Stoke on 2nd April, though even that could be moved.
Midweek away games outside London throw up a number of problems;
- For games north of Birmingham there are rarely regularly scheduled return trains back to London after the game, which means for non-drivers a night in a hotel.
- Re-arranged games such as Sunderland and Bolton involve driving 200+ miles each way, including a late night return journey. 4 in 10 road accidents happen at night, despite the fact that 60% less driving is done then. The Premier League is actively putting fans in danger by arranging long, night time, road journeys.
- Chelsea run a couple of coaches but these already leave very early and get back in the small hours. Fans also have to get to Stamford Bridge to get the coach in the first place.
- Club trains are occasionally organised, but sometimes cancelled. This is ostensibly due to lack of interest, but both cfcuk and Chelsea Supporters Group have raised with Chelsea their belief that the club deliberately don’t advertise the trains. When properly promoted and organised with the fans, these trains have been a success.
Taking time off work.
- A half day of leave often needs to be taken from work to travel to night away games. The 4-6 weeks notice of re-arranged fixtures is rarely enough notioce.
- Anyone due into work at a normal time the day after a distance midweek away game inevitably suffers as a result – or is forced to take more leave. Many fans (including students) cannot take leave at relatively short notice, and, given the finite amount of time off most people get, many have other considerations to make when taking leave from work.
- With most Chelsea fans travelling from London, a city where time is at a particular premium, taking leave at short notice is often not possible.
Family & other commitments.
- Football fans may be loyal but most of them also have families as well. Rescheduled games inevitably impact on some fans who simply can’t go away in midweek for family/relationship reasons or because they have other social/personal commitments.
- Overnight stays inevitably push up costs and this, coupled with the factors detailed above means less demand for tickets.
- The price of both public transport and petrol has risen dramatically over the last few years. Often fans try to combat this by booking train tickets well in advance in order to get cheap deals. These train tickets are nearly always non-refundable. Many Chelsea fans had already booked travel and accommodation for the Blackpool away game.
Weekends away already arranged.
- Fans plan weekends away that have to be rescheduled. Again, Blackpool away is a classic case in point – many people have booked weekends away only to find that the game is not until Monday night. Understandably they are less than happy at this needless expense.
Away ST holders.
- Because of the level of demand for away tickets, Chelsea FC operate an away season ticket scheme. Members of this scheme are automatically charged for and sent tickets to every away game. Away ST holders have long got used to midweek away games, but four at such distance in the space of nine weeks is unprecedented. They are stuck with the tickets for games which they may not be able to attend, simply because of their re-arrangement.
All The factors above contribute to a reduced number of people able to attend games. Wolves was not sold out and turnout at Bolton and Sunderland is likely to be significantly less than this.
This is not due to lack of interest – last season’s Wolves away game was at 3pm on Saturday and sold out quickly. Similarly, Blackpool was a game expected to be sold on a ‘loyalty points’ basis due to its popularity. At the start of the season Chelsea sold almost 5,000 tickets for a televised game away to Wigan, but Bolton away, arguably a more attractive game, will likely sell less than 1,000.
On top of the factors above, the Champions League starts again soon, with an expensive trip to Copenhagen coming up for many, as well as a home leg for which ticket prices have risen dramatically this season. With the FA Cup now underway, Chelsea also have a trip to Everton sandwiched in between the Bolton and Sunderland games.
This reduction in travelling fans impacts on the atmosphere at games, which is, ironically, something Sky and the Premier League stress is one of the great selling points about the Premier League.
Sky can reschedule any PL game, at (I believe) six weeks notice. This, added to a couple of games scheduled for midweek from the start of the season, has led to the current glut of midweek away games.
Letters / E-mails
- Football bodies – Sky, PL, Chelsea (via forum), FA
- Football Media – Sports pages of national & local papers, When Saturday Comes, CFC Fanzine, any others
- The above information could be drafted into a press release under the banner of the Chelsea Supporter Group, theChels.org, the FSF or, preferably, all of the above. Many Chelsea fans have strong contacts in the media who they could send this on to.
- Web – Chelsea fan sites, Twitter, Facebook, blogs. Other clubs with strong support bases may also be interested.
- Representations to: Chelsea Fans Forum.
- Football Supporters Federation (already contact has been made), FA, Parliamentary Football Group etc.
- Leaflet outside away game (or handout in fanzine) encouraging fans to contact ???? to state their views
- Call to 6-0-6 and other football phone-ins.
- Blackpool away has been mooted as an opportunity to visibly and audibly protest against Sky’s moving of games.
- The away end at Blackpool faces TV cameras, so any banners would be easily visible. With enough preparation and notice Chelsea fans attending the game could be asked to make their own banners and songs. Leaflets could be produced to be handed out outside the ground.
- Crucially, the planning of this would need to be kept quiet until close to the game in order to achieve the right impact. If certain areas of the media were tipped off they would comment on the protest, as they have done in the past for Manchester United and Liverpool protests against their owners.
The impact on away fans of midweek fixtures needs to be taken into account both at the start of the season and, critically, when rescheduling takes place. Ideally a limit (100-150 miles?) for travel to midweek away PL games could be unless repeated postponements (or similar). Similarly, in an ideal world, there could be a limit on the number of midweek away games any PL team should have to play.
I guess, via the FSF, there is a possibility of working with other clubs to see whether this could be made into a wider campaign
Whoever is interested in helping! I am happy to get involved but am not looking to take any lead.
Chance of Success.
Realistically, not that high in terms of getting short-term changes, but it is important the views of fans are communicated to the powers that be (Sky, PL) so that when developing the 2011/12 Fixture List they at least take it into account.
It is also important to win over the minds of fans, both Chelsea and beyond, and to bring these issues to a wider forum.