So after Saturdays draw, it would be an honest enough opinion to think that not many of the Hammers faithful would be relishing a midweek trip to Teeside next week. After visiting the area 4 times since the 1st November, the West Ham board have made the generous gesture to pay for all fans wishing to travel with the club for the F.A. Cup 5th round replay. With the club receiving an allocation of 4,700 fans and the prospect of an enticing tie at Goodison in the Quarter Finals to play for, they certainly need as many fans as possible to sing them on at the Riverside. I, personally, think it’s a fantastic gesture and something that more clubs should do to reward the long suffering fans from time to time. It astounds me in this day and age, with the price of tickets to merchandise to the cost of badly cooked food inside grounds, that fans are still charged to travel to support their club in the Premiership. It’s one of those things that certain clubs take advantage of and yet they wonder why fans won’t travel to some games on certain days of the year.West Ham’s C.E.O, Scott Duxbury pointed to the burden that a 5th trip to the North East in 3 months put on their fans and the fact the club recognised the key part the fans could play up at the Riverside will be greatly appreciated in the East End of London.
With the news that the new Premiership television deal is higher than the record breaking 2007-2010 deal, even before foreign rights have been sold already means that the next round of television money will see the clubs receive larger rewards and it’s about time the fans began to benefit more. The price of merchandise is still too much, charging £40 per shirt, when as in my teams example, they release 10 shirts in 3 season, is simply disgraceful. I know no one makes you buy them, but it’s emotional blackmail for some people, especially parents and it’s little gestures like free coach travel that shows the fans the club cares about them. Sure, you could travel by car but when you travel to an away game with a few friends on a bus, the buzz and build up seems to be on a different level, especially if you’re part of a convoy of travelling supporters buses trundling to various grounds. I love that part of the game, the travelling to away grounds on a Saturday as you pass car after car travelling to different grounds, bumping into other fans at the service stations, the genial chat and pre-match hopes all mingled in together, it’s one of those things that makes football such a wonderful game.
The away fan is a crucial component to British football, with the exception of the Bundesliga, that sets it apart from almost every league in Western Europe. It’s not done on any level like it is in England, Scotland and Wales as fans travel the length and breadth, visiting ground after ground, scarfs and flags of every club flying from windows and car aerials, the waving to fellow supporters of your team and if you’re lucky, the occasionally flasher!! When the sun’s out in at the beginning and end of the season, it’s a glorious, uplifting sight. The Saturday armies travelling around the motorway systems of the British Isles is a great sight to see in most weathers and West Ham understand that if they can take 4,700 Hammers to Teeside against a side under enormous pressure, it could be the additional incentive the side needs to push onwards in the F.A. Cup. Good on The Hammers board for doing the right thing and paying for their fans travel costs, it’s time more Premiership clubs stopped taking advantage of the travelling supporter.