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.
SYDNEY (AP) Bobo scored twice as Sydney FC rebounded from its first loss in the A-League to beat Melbourne City 3-1 and continue atop the table.
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Sydney’s ambitious attempt to become the first team to end the regular season unbeaten came unstuck last week when it was beaten by Western Sydney Wanderers in a fractious local derby, repercussions of which continued through the week. Wanderers were fined $20,000 by Football Federation Australia after its fans unfurled an obscene banner targeting Sydney coach Graham Arnold.
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Sydney raised itself above that controversy on Friday with a comprehensive win over Melbourne City which briefly took it 11 points clear in first place.
Melbourne Victory restored the gap to eight points when it beat defending champion Adelaide United 2-1, and Perth leapfrogged Melbourne City into third place when it dumped the Wanderers 2-0.
Bobo opened Sydney’s scoring with a penalty, but City canceled that out only a minute later.
Sydney went in front again after the break, and Bobo sealed the win, set up by a superb through ball by Milos Ninkovic which highlighted their developing combination.
Midfielder Brandon O’Neil said Sydney was determined to leave behind the contention of their derby loss.
“When it all came out, the FFA and Western Sydney had to deal with it and it did,” O’Neil said. “It brought us together and we spoke about a few things, and nothing changed for us. We want to be premier (champions).”
Melbourne Victory’s win over Adelaide kept it in touch with Sydney with seven regular season rounds remaining.
Wellington kept its faint playoff hopes alive, staying in seventh place with a 2-1 win over Brisbane.
With almost a week to go until the Major League Soccer season kicks off, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Orlando City may have pulled off one of the biggest trades of offseason.
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The clubs announced on Saturday that the Whitecaps have acquired U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder/defender Brek Shea in exchange for forward Giles Barnes, who is headed to Orlando City.
“We are excited to welcome Brek to our club and city,” said Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson. “Brek is a tall, physical, skilled player and will bring a different dimension to our attack. Brek will join the group in coming days and we anticipate he will be available for selection as early as this Thursday’s Champions League match against New York.”
Shea, 26, began his career in MLS with FC Dallas before heading to England for a brief stint with Stoke City. The U.S. defender made his way back to MLS ahead of Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2015 and started 39 matches in that span.
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Meanwhile, Barnes has scored 33 goals since joining MLS in 2012. The 28-year-old forward played with the Houston Dynamo before spending last season with the Whitecaps.
Major League Soccer has attracted some of the world’s biggest stars over recent years and now one of the Mexican national team’s top talents could be heading stateside very soon.
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According to ESPN FC, MLS is currently in negotiations with Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in an attempt to lure Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to the U.S. in the summer of 2018.
Expansion side Los Angeles FC has been heavily linked with Hernandez, with the club making its entrance into MLS in 2018. Additionally, the Los Angeles Galaxy have also been said to have strong ties with Chicharito.
Hernandez, 28, is currently under contract until next summer, and MLS is reportedly seeking a move in 2018 to avoid paying a transfer fee for the El Tri forward.
ESPN FC is also reporting that Chicharito could make around $9 million annually if he does in fact join MLS.
In 2015, Orlando City and the Chicago Fire were both linked with acquiring Hernandez but the Leverkusen forward was insistent upon the fact that he play Champions League football.
Although there’s only one match on Sunday’s Premier League docket, the fixture bears great weight for both clubs.
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Tottenham vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Spurs have the chance to move back into second place at White Hart Lane as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side are firmly in a battle to finish runners’ up to Chelsea this season. Tottenham currently sit 13 points out of the top spot, however, five clubs are within four points of another in the battle for second. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela remain sidelined due to injuries but Spurs will remain the favorites in the fixture after having won their previous two league meetings.
Stoke enters Sunday having gone unbeaten in five of its last six PL matches and the Potters can enter the top 10 with a victory. Mark Hughes‘ side could be given a big lift with the potential return of Xherdan Shaqiri while Saido Berahino could be in line to earn his first start since joining Stoke. Both players could present massive upside for the Potters, who have struggled to find goals as of late. In their last four matches, Stoke have managed just three finishes, one of which came from an own goal.