From billionaire owners to players making weekly salaries well in excess of six digits to massive television broadcast deals, the Premier League is dominated by one thing: money.
Yet while all the major players surrounding the Premier League continue to get richer and richer, fans continue to be saddled with increasing ticket prices. It’s a system that most agree is broken, not to mention inherently unfair.
Amidst the outcry, however, clubs have been reluctant to step up and protect those who keep them afloat. Until today that is, when Stoke City announced the unprecedented step of offering their supporters free coach travel to every Premier League away game this season.
The plan emerged after representatives from all Premier League met to discuss the steep decline in the number of away fans attending matches. The Potters idea of free bus travel was submitted to the other clubs but “didn’t get universal approval,” said Stoke chairman Peter Coates.
Despite the resistance, however, Stoke is pushing forward with the initiative for a year long trial period. “We think that the cost of travel is very expensive these days. We are going to try this experiment for 12 months, and we think it will be appreciated by our supporters,” Coates said.
Coates wasn’t upset by other clubs failing to adopt his idea, saying “I am a great believer in not telling other clubs what to do.”
For the chairman, the away coach project is his way of ensuring the game doesn’t lose the fans who brought the game to prominence. “I have always been of the view that everyone in the community should be able to go to football,” Coates said. “It’s traditionally a working-class sport and we want people on modest incomes to be able to come.”
For a club typically panned for its lack of on-field innovation, Stoke City and Peter Coates deserve huge applause for this simple yet cutting edge initiative.