In the past year Chelsea have broken the British transfer fee twice, paying £105m for Enzo Fernandez and a reported £100m plus add ons for Moises Caicedo. Their playing squad cost somewhere in the region of £1bn to assemble.
Yet the club have pleaded poverty when it comes to helping their own fans by scrapping subsidised away travel for their club’s most loyal supporters.
A club statement released earlier this week claimed “it was not financially sustainable” to continue to offer a £10 coach travel subsidy. It’s rumoured to have cost the club around £250,000 per season.
Of course many fans elsewhere will look on with envy at a subsidised coach travel offer, but Chelsea are not the only club to offer such deals, and here at the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) we want to see more of them, not fewer.
Stoke City manage to offer free coach travel in the Championship and they deserve a great deal of credit for that. (What does your club do? Let us know about any subsidised transport options available to you.)
Top-flight teams in particular have huge revenues and there’s a moral edge to this – how do those teams spend that money? The club’s claim that they simply don’t have the cash to help their own fans has been met with a mix of anger and eye-rolling.
It’s pennies down the back of the sofa in relation to the club’s revenues.
Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) called the move “appalling” and pointed out that it would hurt younger supporters and those with disabilities – precisely the people football clubs should be doing everything they can to help.
Hats off to CST who have stepped in and promised to subsidise the upcoming away trip to AFC Bournemouth ensuring fans pay £10 rather than £29. They hope this gives the club time to assess the reaction.
While the prime focus is on affordability this move also raises questions for all clubs – not just Chelsea – when it comes to their environmental commitments.
Football schedules fixtures all over the calendar to satisfy broadcasters and keep those massive media deals coming in – yet that scheduling ensures that the only way to get to many of those games as an away fan is to drive or use organised private transport (e.g. club coaches).
In most instances it isn’t possible to travel across the country after 10pm or 11pm at night using public transport.
Chelsea’s own environmental policy “encourages fans on their way to games to use public transport or other more environmentally-friendly means. For certain away games the club will continue to provide coach and train travel to encourage less car usage.”
It’s an acknowledgement that scrapping the £10 subsidy for many away games encourages more private car use and more CO2 emissions… but at least it saves them £250,000.