Travelling support

Semi-final weekend has set me thinking about Birmingham City’s semi-final in 1956 and about away games in general.

The 1956 semi-final was the first and only time my dad took me to a game outside Birmingham.  He said that travelling to support our team was too expensive so when Birmingham was playing away we went to Villa Park to support the away team.

Birmingham didn’t have any home games on their way to the FA Cup Final in 1956, they played away at Torquay, Leyton Orient, West Brom and Arsenal in rounds 3 to 6. And in those 4 games, they scored 15 goals and only conceded 2. It’s easy to see why we thought our name was on the cup that year.

I don’t remember much about the actual game but I do remember how exciting it was to travel up to Sheffield in a football special train packed with other Blues fans.  The ground seemed enormous and the crowd was huge; 65,107 was the official number.  It was the first time I heard Keep Right On being sung at a match and that was an amazing experience.  I can remember feeling very tense because we were only one goal up and thinking that we could easily lose if we fans stopped singing and willing the team on.  I’ve checked the stats and the goals in our 3-0 victory came on 11, 65 and 83 minutes so the last 25 minutes must have been more relaxed.  But that’s not the way I remember it; in fact until I checked the result as an adult, I remembered it as a 1-0 win.

I don’t know how much Dad paid for the match and train tickets but I think it stretched our family budget.  He’d told me that we couldn’t afford to go to the semi-final and the final and had left the choice to me. I chose the semi-final because I wasn’t sure we’d get to the final.  But the tickets for ordinary league and cup games were cheap then; football was the game that working men could afford to watch.

It’s different now; the rise in ticket prices has priced a lot of people out of the game.  It’s bad enough for home fans but even worse for those who go to away matches; they have to pay for travel costs and don’t get the special deals offered to home fans. Fans are beginning to fight back; Manchester City returned 900 unsold tickets to Arsenal when some of their fans protested at the £62 price.  The Football Supporters Federation’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign is calling for a cap on away ticket prices.  This is what they say on their campaign page:

Twenty's Plenty logo“TWENTY’S PLENTY AIMS: Supporters call upon football clubs at all levels of the game to recognise and reward the amazing contribution of away fans by getting together to agree an across the board price cap on away match tickets of £20 (£15 for concessions).

Supporters understand that football is unaffordable for many and this is especially true for away fans who, aside from match tickets, must contend with spiralling food, drink and travel costs. There has been a tremendous groundswell of opinion lately with campaigns and petitions popping up across the country and Twenty’s Plenty will try to harness that energy

This feels like a real tipping point with fans putting aside tribal differences to speak with one voice and say enough is enough.” 

If you, like me, agree that it’s time for fans to get together to try to improve the state of football in this country check out the FSF website. There’s a lot of interesting and useful information on there.