25 days following Forest

Bob Whetton travels to nearly every Forest game home and away from the Lincolnshire coast. He has been analysing the distances travelled by Forest fans in recent weeks as the Trust seeks to work alongside other groups to push for a more fan-orientated approach to scheduling.

As a Forest season ticket holder living near the Lincolnshire coast who has followed the team home and away for many years I’d like to share my experiences following Forest over recent weeks.

Fixture schedules are contentious at the best of times but longer journeys for midweek matches, or at Christmas/New Year have long been a bugbear. Add in the rearrangements for televised matches and it becomes ridiculous. Forest have a great away following, and our popularity means we are a hot pick for televised games because of the revenue we provide Sky.

The game is nothing without fans but we are the last consideration when fixtures are arranged. We understand that certain games must be held on Saturdays including local derbies, but long trips in midweek or for early/late weekend kickoffs should be avoided.

Middlesbrough on Boxing Day was less than ideal – 262 miles round trip from ground to ground – add on extra miles for those who need to travel to coach pick-up points.

1,200 miles and counting

On Sunday 29th January we had to travel to travel to Cardiff for a 4.30pm kick-off, then after the home FA Cup tie, the following Sunday we travelled on Wednesday evening to Blackburn, followed by a Saturday 3.00pm home game. Then on Friday night off to Bournemouth for a 7.45pm kick off – or rather it should have been, and we all know what happened don’t we?! The next Tuesday evening we travelled to Preston for a 7.45pm kick off.

The four away trips totalled around 1,200 miles round trips (if you actually made it to Bournemouth). Those games included our second and third longest travels of the season. For what it’s worth I did another 560 miles from near the Lincolnshire coast to connect to the Official Coach Travel from the City Ground.

Frankly football authorities seem like they don’t care about supporters. How can dedicated supporters who work, or younger fans in education attend such games? What about elderly or infirm fans who find long midweek journeys too difficult? Arriving back on the coach at the City Ground at 12.30am from Blackburn & Preston with onward travel is no fun. For the rearranged Bournemouth game we are talking of arriving back at maybe 2.30am.

This is only part of the problem – ask Bournemouth fans who went to Middlesbrough for a lunchtime Saturday kick off, or Blackburn fans who travelled to Hull for a late postponement. Millwall fans had the same problem travelling to Blackburn.

Looking ahead…

At the time of writing, we now have Fulham rearranged for a Saturday 8.00pm evening kick off – this will probably change if we manage to win at home to Huddersfield in the FA Cup. It will then result in another midweek evening kickoff!

The problem starts with the EFL who arrange fixture lists in early June so that they can be published around 20th June ahead of the new season. EFL has no direct liaison with National League over fixtures hence clashes such as Forest and Notts County.

We are told that it is complicated – yes to a degree, but any competent IT professional could deal with these challenges. I know that the Supporters Club and Forza Garibaldi share our frustrations and we are looking to work with them on this important issue.

New principles…

As a Trust we are pushing hard with Football Supporters Association to take up this issue seriously with EFL. A working group has been set up following our request and has prepared a new approach based on the following principles:

1. Safety
2. Availability of public transport.
3. Consultation with supporters.

This approach needs to be underpinned by:

1. Putting supporters at the heart of decision taking.
2. Longest journeys should not be midweek.
3. A maximum distance based on time.
4. Fewer long distances each week – for consecutive away games.
5. Any longer midweek journeys one season should not be repeated the next season.

A full schedule can be downloaded showing our away fixtures this season. It shows that the schedule is also seriously affected by Sky selections for live coverage. The outcome is a ridiculous number of matches at times which are disadvantageous to Forest fans. We have asked the FSA to undertake work across all professional clubs to properly review the distances travelled by fans so that the schedule can avoid long distances at inconvenient times.

If you agree with the Trust’s views please let us know. If you or your supporter group is an FSA member please also contact the FSA info@thefsa.org.uk

Bob Whetton

Secretary

Nottingham Forest Supporters Trust