The Cost of going to Football: a possible solution

Posted by on Mar 23, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments
The Cost of going to Football: a possible solution

The success of Starbucks, Costa and Caffè Nero in recent years underlines perhaps more than anything Britain’s ignorance as a coffee appreciative nation and football fans forced to once again imbibe another watery latte at staging posts along our motorways and railways lines will count this as yet another among a host of less than satisfying aspects of the away trip.

Service station architecture may have been eulogised in some quarters but Tebay services’ scooping of an Egon Ronay’s British Academy of Gastronomes’ Grand Prix award in 2009 is the exception rather than a rule. Herded like cattle into these box like structures, we have become a nation all too used to Pumpkins, M&S Simply Foods and Journey’s Friends.

Nor does any of this come cheaply – impatient fans already battered financially by the M6 toll (plus the disappointment of missing out on a view of the Bescot stadium) will see the price of a match day augmented heavily by such sundries, with in ground ‘food’, the price of a pint or three and – for those happy with freeze dried opinions – matchday programmes all adding to the mood of pocket lightening.

Of course the core stuff is what really makes watching football so expensive. The latest annual train price increase of the horrific post-privatization era was announced in January and averages out at 5.9%, although some off-peak return fares between London and towns including Exeter, Cardiff and Plymouth had risen by more than 9%.

That problem is exacerbated further of course by the mindless scheduling of many kick off times – a topic we explored in the very early days of this blog three years ago now. Those wishing to travel to travel from Burnley to Ipswich for the match on March 21st will have seen their last chugger leave at 5.09pm – more than two and a half hours before the game kicked off – thus necessitating an overnight stay.

In most such instances, supporters would choose to travel by car but prices hit another record in Britain recently, with a litre of unleaded petrol costing 138.5p, a 3.5p rise over the past month. To fill up what’s defined as a large family car now costs around £100, while a medium-sized saloon costs £70. The scarcity of oil as a commodity makes this entirely necessary of course, but what to do?

Returning to Ipswich for a moment, Barnsley fans contemplating the trek to Portman Road for the game on March 31st will be met with an entry price of £31 with OAPs, students and ‘juveniles’ (no slur intended presumably) between 16-19 charged £22 and under 16s, £11.

I once paid only a tenner to get in to Oakwell and the South Yorkshire outfit have always had a keenly responsible attitude to the sums they can expect supporters to pay – hence, the £24 to travel by coach, leaving from the ground at 9.30am sharp, is perhaps cheaper than elsewhere in the division. Nonetheless, put that together with that £31 as well as £3.40 for a pint of Aspall’s Suffolk cider and eyes begin to water.

That’s less though than those choosing to travel by train as a super off peak return is the least expensive option at £80.90. With the trip involving changes at Leeds, Peterborough and Bury St. Edmunds, perhaps it could be packaged as a tour of notable ecclesiastical architecture? National Express’s website crashed during my investigations – presumably due to the sheer absurdity of the journey.

A potential solution does exist, however.

The website goCarShare is a burgeoning concern that has built its reputation by bringing together people choosing to share the cost of travel over long journeys – and it has come into its own in helping ferry folks to out of the way events such as Glastonbury and Latitude, although it has also proved popular among students travelling to and from university.

Launched in 2010, it bills itself as ‘an environmental, fun and socially enhancing experience that connects passengers and drivers, helps them to share car journeys, forge friendships and ultimately save money.’ It has been shortlisted for awards, including the TechCrunch Europas for new start ups.

The service is free and one need just list the journey one is going to make as a driver, or would like to make as a passenger and agreements are fostered via facebook. The football element of the goCarShare site is still in its relative infancy but a quick visit to the home page indicates a couple of bargains to be had.

For instance, ‘Jerry’ is driving from London to see Liverpool v Wigan and offering a ticket in his car for £14. Conversely, ‘Drummond’ is seeking a lift to Manchester to see QPR play at Old Trafford and offering £13 – sadly, it’s no doubt statistically likely that he’ll be cheering from the home end – but it still provides an opportunity to attend far more cheaply than via conventional means.

That the service is embryonic is obvious from the fact that the facility for League 1 and League 2 fans is still at the ‘coming soon’ stage – although there is presumably nothing to stop eager beavers from signing up while steps have also been taken to avoid Kalifornia type scenarios. An eBay style rating systems will mark drivers and ensure that nutters are weeded out (best not to publicize this on message boards then), a helpful Q&A is available at the site and, crucially, travellers are asked to express a preference for the sex of the person they travel with – women are thus allowed to travel without fear for their safety.

Of course this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – my one informal experience of this for a Leeds v Watford match when I was at university in Manchester involved no horror stories; more an awkwardness of having to spend a few hours in the company with a pleasant enough guy with whom I had squarely nowt in common. Plus, as a non car owner and pro-environment views, I feel slightly uncomfortable encouraging anyone to use the four wheel option at all.

But pragmatically, the project has green credentials in its potentially huge reduction in fuel costs as well as providing an ingenious way round the frankly shocking price of supporting one’s favourites on the road. To use the service, get yourselves down to the football section of their website and that trip to see the Robins at the Riverside or the Addicks at the Galpharm might be more feasible.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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