Sunderland fans could be protected from costly rail fees when games are switched for TV

Football fans will not have to pay more for train tickets when a match is rescheduled for television, it has been proposed.

By Gary Welford
Thursday, 14 February, 2019, 07:27
Supporters currently face paying a fee to amend the cheapest train tickets when kick-off times and dates are changed.

Supporters currently face paying a fee to amend the cheapest train tickets when kick-off times and dates are changed.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said a fairer and more flexible arrangement is "within reach".

Sunderland's loyal travelling support have seen many games switched for TV over the years.

It is hoped trials will be launched for Premier League matches next season, and could be extended to the English Football League.

So far this season, not a single Black Cats away game has been switched for TV, though it has happened regularly in previous seasons.

Two home games have been moved for TV, with the match against Charlton Athletic on the opening day of the season kicking off at 12.45pm instead of 3pm, and this week's game against Accrington Stanley being brought forward to 7.45pm on Friday.

These changes affected Sunderland fans who live outside the area, as well as away supporters travelling to the matches.

Rail Minister Andrew Jones said it's not fair to expect football fans to pay more for trains when games are switched on TV.

The proposal to save fans money when games are moved follows an agreement between the Department for Transport, football authorities, British Transport Police (BTP) and industry body the Rail Delivery Group to collaborate on improving journeys for fans.

It also includes plans to boost stewarding on trains and ensure closer links between clubs and BTP.

This is aimed at creating a better travelling environment for supporters and non-football fans whose travel coincides with matches.

The Premier League is drawing up an agreement to implement the measures.

Mr Jones said: "Football is all about passionate fans, and the last thing loyal supporters deserve is to pay more when matches are rescheduled at the last minute.

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"That's why I'm delighted that the Government has helped secure a vital agreement that will bring together clubs, operators and British Transport Police.

"Significant changes are now within reach, which can ensure even more people use our railways to get to games and improve the experience for all passengers on match days.

"To drive this forward, I will be meeting with the Premier League and rail industry shortly to ensure our focus is on delivering a safe, secure and fair railway that works for fans, passengers, the clubs and the operators."

The number of Premier League matches televised or streamed live in the UK will reach 200 next season, earning the league more than £4.5 billion.

Supporters' groups have expressed concern that switching more matches from the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off time will make it harder for some fans to attend.

Rail passengers are encouraged to select Advance fares to save money, but these can only be used on specific trains.

That means supporters who buy these fares to travel to a match which is then rescheduled face paying a £10 fee per ticket plus the difference in ticket cost.

Premier League executive director William Bush said: "We are working closely with the Government on an extensive range of schemes, and we are confident there are some truly transformational projects that we can take forward.

"Both the Premier League and Government are committed to working hard for a fairer, affordable, safer deal for football fans.

"We continue to work with rail industry leaders on proposals and look forward to setting out a joint way forward which will improve the travelling experience for fans on match days."

RDG chief executive Paul Plummer said: "It's not fair that last-minute changes to the match day schedule can increase costs for travelling fans, which is why train companies are working together to see how we can increase flexibility and give people more certainty about their ticket.

"This has to be alongside the ongoing, cross-industry work to tackle anti-social behaviour from an extreme minority of people on match days so that we can ensure everyone travelling can have a comfortable journey."