BLACK Cats fans are going the extra mile in support of their team.
Research by Virgin Money’s Football Fans’ Inflation Index shows that Sunderland supporters travel an average of 2,161 miles per season to domestic games – the seventh highest in the Premier League.
Judith Hood, from the SAFC Supporters’ Association, said the club had a growing band of dedicated away fans.
She said: “Sunderland has always had a strong, hardcore group of away supporters that will support them through thick and thin and I think you see that at away games. A lot of the time it does depend on how many tickets they are allocated from game to game, but there is always a good turn out and I think that has got stronger in the last couple of seasons.”
The most miles a season are clocked up by West Bromwich Albion fans, who claim to put in 3,290 miles a season going to league matches, an average of 86 miles for every Premiership game, beating the 2,471 miles or 65 miles a game, clocked up at Man City.
Newcastle United was in sixth place, with 2,234 miles, and Blackburn came bottom, with 1,312 miles.
However, Judith said it was becoming more and more expensive for supporters to attend away games.
The survey also showed that the average match-day cost for fans was now £101.67, a 4.2 per cent rise in the past three months, with the increase being driven by costs outside clubs’ control including petrol and train tickets.
“It’s not just the cost of the tickets, which can be as high as £40 or £50 when you go to places like Chelsea or Arsenal, but there is also the expense of travelling to a ground and staying over if it’s a really long trip,” said Judith. “The fans must spend thousands of pounds as well as travelling thousands of miles every season.”
Grant Bather, from Virgin Money, said the mileage figures are testament to fans’ loyalty.
“Football fans do go the extra mile supporting their club and it’s good to see that clubs are doing what they can to keep costs down,” he said. “But travelling to games is a major cost for fans, whether it is in a car or on trains. When you add in the travel problems the whole country has suffered with the snow, it’s impressive that supporters clock up as many miles a season as they do.”
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “These travel figures show the incredible commitment of match-going fans in supporting their teams.
“With both fuel prices and rail fares recently rising to unprecedented levels, it will become even harder for fans to maintain this commitment and clubs should recognise this in their ticket pricing policies.”
l Earlier this week we reported on Wayne Morris, from Australia, pictured left with Steed Malbranque, who travels to Sunderland every Christmas to see the team play and we asked for anyone else who may travel further. So far, Mr Morris holds the record. If you are a fan who travels further, or know a fan who travels further, ring the newsdesk on 501 7208 or email firstname.lastname@example.org