Fans' chief calls for fixture re-think

Fans’ chief Malcolm Clarke has called for a change in the policy of scheduling fixtures to prevent supporters travelling huge distances for night matches and games over the holiday period.

The FA Premier League have come in for widespread criticism after Charlton fans made a 600-mile round trip to Newcastle last night only to have their match called off 30 minutes before kick-off.

Sunderland’s trip to Blackburn and Middlesbrough’s match at Bolton also fell victim to the freezing temperatures, while in the Football League some of the long wasted journeys involved Preston at Plymouth in the Coca-Cola Championship and League Two Torquay at Stockport.

Clarke, chairman of Football Supporters’ Federation, believes it is time the software was updated on the fixture computer.

“We would like fixture computer programmed in a way that, for night games, supporters didn’t have to travel these long distances,” he said.

“What the football authorities have not programmed in is the distance the away support have to travel and that is what we would like to see.

“Often the travelling supporter – the game’s best customer – is the most abused. What we can do is stop away supporters having to travel huge distances for night games.

“I feel really sorry for those fans who had to travel back through the night having not seen a game yesterday.”

Clarke’s view was supported by Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd, after his club were criticised for the late decision to postpone last night because of the state of the roads around St James’ Park despite the pitch being playable.

“The FA must look at this. Forget the players – it’s just not fair on the fans,” Shepherd told Radio Five Live.

“Why are we playing in London on New Year’s Eve when we could be playing Sunderland or Middlesbrough?

“It’s ridiculous, we should be playing a local team or even one in Manchester.”

Televised matches often cause travelling fans more problems in terms of late - or very early – kick-offs but Clarke accepted that had not any bearing on last night’s matches.

However, he vowed his organisation would take up the issue with the ruling bodies,

“Television rules in many respects but, to be fair, I don’t think it was a major issue with last night,” he told Radio Five Live.

“But we have games on television for ridiculous times on a Sunday and Monday evening and very often supporters have to travel very long distances.

“We will be raising this issue yet again. Hopefully, after last night’s experience, it will be taken very seriously to try to avoid some of these problems recurring.”

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