When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Southampton FC supporters still waiting for return of free buses to St. Mary's Stadium on matchdays
TODAY thousands of fans will make their way to St Mary’s Stadium to see Saints’ first home match of the season.
But as Mauricio Pochettino’s team take on Sunderland, the return of free bus travel for hundreds of dedicated supporters looks no closer to reality.
Negotiations between the city council, the club and bus operators are ongoing, and supporters have called on them to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
As previously reported in the Daily Echo, free bus travel for ticket-holders was introduced as a condition of planning permission when consent was granted to build the stadium in 1999.
With attendances dropping below 20,000 and the club dropping into the second tier the council suspended the condition, saving the club £150,000 per year in bus subsidies.
The club had agreed to reintroduce it when Saints returned to the Premier League or if the average attendance rose above 23,000, but despite the team’s renewed success on the pitch and an average attendance of 30,873 for 2012/2013, free bus travel has not returned.
Discussions between the club, the city council and bus operators, including Velvet and First, about reinstating the condition have dragged on for most of the year.
A council spokesman said: “The council is also working with these parties to improve travel options for spectators and coordinate travel information for fans and residents on game days.
“Towards the end of last season a travel survey of fans was undertaken and the results of this survey are being used to develop options with the club.”
Supporters have called on the club and council to introduce new measures for fans.
Veteran Saints campaigner Perry McMillan said: “I’m disappointed that something hasn’t been sorted before the start of the season and I would want them to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
Nick Illingsworth said: “The club and the city are intrinsically linked, and it benefits both to work together in tandem to promote the club – but the club also benefits from the city of Southampton and it’s important that they are both kicking in the same direction.”
Saints declined to comment.
Comments are closed on this article.