Premiership kicks off free bus travel to away games

Claire Haigh
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In a move that has been praised by fans and the public, Stoke City and Aston Villa football clubs are offering free bus travel to away matches for the duration of the season.

With 19 away games a season, Stoke City is offering bus travel for all of their away matches and Aston Villa is offering fans the chance to travel to ten of the club’s away games. Stoke City’s first away match against Liverpool at the start of the season was the first time the scheme was put into action. It proved to be a huge success with all 3,000 tickets sold – the first time that Stoke has ever taken more than 1500 people to that fixture – as fans made the most of the free travel on offer. Chelsea has also announced they will subsidise train and bus fares for at least ten away games.

While the initiative should be praised for encouraging more fans to attend away matches, arranging bus travel will also help to reduce the number of fans travelling by car to these matches. Not only will a reduction in low occupancy car journeys be more efficient, the shift will also benefit the environment by reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. As a consequence, congestion on roads will be reduced, particularly around the stadiums themselves, something to be welcomed by those who live in the often built-up areas around football stadiums. There is no doubt the Premiership has hit upon a winning tactic.

Research from the Carbon Trust found that going to see a game live at the stadium is the most carbon intensive way of watching football – particularly for an away game – due to the impact of transport. However it is also where the bus can make a big difference. For example a football fan driving on their own to and from this year’s Football Association’s Community Shield at Wembley Stadium from Manchester created 152kg of emission. In contrast, if the fan had travelled by bus they would have created just 4kg of emissions. The Carbon Trust suggests that public transport or coaches put on by a club are the lowest carbon way to get to a game (unless you can walk or cycle).

In the past five year, there has been a 10% decline the attendance of fans to away matches, according to Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, and a lack of adequate transport links are seen by many as one of the reasons behind this decline. The Premiership clubs are investing £4 million a season, £12 million over the next three seasons in an attempt to combat this.

Football clubs in England continue to build on this effort to be more environmentally friendly. According to the Carbon Trust, during 2010-11 the Football Association’s own carbon bootprint was reduced by 7% by improving building management system controls for lighting, heating and ventilation, and upgrading to more efficient equipment.

Passenger cars produce nearly 60% of all CO2 emissions from road transport in the UK, compared to just 5% from buses (Department of Energy and Climate Change 2011). Bus travel thereby offers a far more environmentally sustainable travel choice for fans. The travel initiative will not only benefit their pockets, but also their environmental conscience.

Earlier this month Greener Journey’s published the Bus 2020 Manifesto which demonstrates the importance of the bus in helping deliver economic growth, jobs and sustainability, in addition to promoting social inclusion. Buses are an essential mode of transport, accounting for over five billion passenger journeys every year. Buses also provide a cost effective solution to congestion – switching from car to bus for just one journey a month would mean one billion fewer car journeys on our roads and would save 2 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

If you are a football fan, think about taking the bus to your next football match. Count yourself lucky if you one of those that will be travelling for free!

Photo: Espen Faugstad

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