Rising fuel costs driving away fans

Rising fuel costs are driving away football fans who can no longer afford to travel the nation to watch their beloved team in action, according to new research from Virgin Money.

The Football Fans’ Census revealed supporters are clocking up an average of 1,899 miles a year in support of their team – a decrease of 132 miles compared to last year’s figures.

Chelsea fans travel the furthest by any support in the Premier League – clocking up a total of 2,385 miles a season – just ahead of Sunderland and Portsmouth supporters.

The Londoners replaced Portsmouth at the top of the leaderboard, with the average Pompey fan travelling over a hundred miles less this year, down from 2,410 to 2,301.

During a regular 38-game league season, supporters of England’s top flight teams travel 50 miles on average per game, in comparison with fans from the Football League who travel an average of 41 miles to a game.

Everton fans, however, travel the least distance as their supporters estimate they cover just 1,648 miles during a campaign.

These statistics reflect the belief that travelling has reduced as a result of increasing fuel costs which have increased 17 percent in two years, as measured by Virgin Money’s Football Fans Inflation Index.

This showed matchday costs for fans have risen a staggering 31.5 percent compared to when the research was carried out in January 2006.

The price of a gallon of petrol, for instance, has increased by 17 percent to £4.78, although this has dropped slightly since this time a year ago.

While those supporters who travel by rail have seen average train fares increase by almost 10 percent to £17.73 from £16.16 at the same time last year.

“Travelling to games costs not just in time but in cash and increasingly fans are staying at home,” said Virgin Money’s Grant Bather.

“The high price of petrol and rail fares make travelling an expensive business and for fans the cost doesn’t stop there – pre-match pints, tickets and match programmes all add up to a day at the ground becoming a big commitment.”

Bather believes the growing commercial nature of the sport, including TV-friendly kick-off times, are also directly impacting on the number of fans being forced to remain indoors.

“Different kick-off times with late Saturday games, Sunday games, Monday games and midweek games make travelling difficult.

“It might be good news for weekend traffic levels but it’s not good for the game and a shame for those keen to see their team in action.”

There are, however, still those who have no limits to the distance they go to watch their team.

One in 10 Premier League fans currently travel over 5,000 miles each season and a small contingent of hardcore fans (one percent) estimated they were clocking up over 15,000 miles a season to see their team – the equivalent of travelling more than half way around the world.

Football Fans’ Census is Europe’s leading football research expert and interviewed a representative sample of 4,003 football fans between 5-13 October 2009.