Planes, trains or automobiles: how we travel to the football

This article appeared in Rovers Review – the Raith Rovers matchday programme – on Saturday 16 October. Final score on the day was Raith Rovers 1-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

You might have seen that Manchester United made the 100-mile journey to their away fixture at Leicester City by plane. I’m not saying we should ban all flying immediately, but we can all agree journeys like this are unnecessary. If our opponents today can organise themselves to get the bus down the A9 from Inverness in time for a 3pm kick-off in Kirkcaldy, then surely one of England’s richest clubs can see to it that they leave early enough to reach the King Power in good time by surface transport. Arguments about the players needing to arrive refreshed and relaxed don’t wash either. United took a private jet and still got horsed 4-2.

Pain on the train

I’ve had a look at the stats and data, and I think the last time the Rovers had reason to take a plane to an away game was 25 years ago, when we might have played a team in Germany in some tournament or another. Nonetheless, the Manchester story is a good opportunity to think about how fans get to and from games, and what we might do differently.

I reckon Scottish football fans are pretty good at using transport efficiently to get to and from matches. Given the choice, most of us would prefer to take a train or supporters’ bus, or at least share a lift with our pals. But the authorities don’t make it easy for us to choose green travel options. The trains in Scotland have been stopped on Sundays for months, and you’ll be lucky if the public transport is still running by the time an evening fixture finishes.

WWK Arena, Augsburg, Germany

Learning from Germany

A couple of years back, I was able to take in a Bundesliga game involving another German team with a Kirkcaldy connection – FC Ingolstadt. The club from Kirkcaldy’s twin city were away to FC Augsburg, so I went to have a look. I know we have a tendency to get over-excited about the Bundesliga, so I’ll get this bit out the way first – the ticket was expensive and the defending on show was rotten. But what did impress me were the transportation options for getting to and from the game.

Augsburg play in a new stadium – the WWK Arena – at the edge of the city. On matchdays, free trams run non-stop from the city centre out to the ground. The inter-city trains run late enough, and frequently enough, that you don’t need to worry about getting home at night. There are even cycle paths and bike racks outside the ground, should you wish to burn off the calories from your half-time hot dog and arrive by pedal power.

Culture change

A photo went ‘viral’ last season of Dutch legend Arjen Robben cycling home, still wearing his kit, after turning in a star performance for FC Groningen. He wasn’t doing this for ‘likes’ or social media attention. He was doing it because of long-term investment in the Netherlands in cycling infrastructure, which creates a culture where cycling is the easiest and most obvious transportation choice for the Dutch.

Let’s hope that COP26 spurs Scotland into learning from our European neighbours, and making the investments that will enable climate-friendly travel to and from football matches

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