Train networks and railway lines revolutionised fans' ability to attend football matches. But is this form of transport now on a downward spiral?
Train strikes are becoming a regular barrier for fans on a national scale, so will there become a time where consumers are more reluctant to got to games, impacting attendance figures? This problem also comes in a digital age where you can purchase a match pass every week to watch your team play on TV. The path to abolishing the 3pm blackout is becoming closer and closer, and it could have a lasting impact on football fans going to matches, and instead watching it from their sofa. Why would you go through so much trouble when you can watch the game without moving, and in the comfort of your own home?
This issue has come to light recently because of fans expressing their frustration online over last minute cancellations and an inability to utilise public transport to travel up and down the country.
Essentially, that's the purpose of national rail, right? But when that privilege and access is stripped from fans, how are they supposed to get to games? It is especially prudent when train companies are carrying out these actions with short notice. To highlight an example, Leyton Orient played Fleetwood Town on Saturday and many travelling O's voiced their anger on social media because of a cancelled train minutes before departure, resulting in some being stranded and unable to make the trip up north.
This is just one of many instances where national services have prohibited fans from attending long distance matches, and without an alternative means of transport, fans are wasting large portions of their weekly wages on train tickets which do not even get refunded some of the time. Train prices are a whole separate issue but if fans are forking out limited disposable income for increased fares plus increased match tickets and are then hit with the debacle of their train being cancelled then they are going to become less enthusiastic towards attending these matches; potentially ruining the way the game is consumed in the process. In turn, this could have a visible and detrimental effect on the volume of people attending games in the near and also distant future.
Obviously most fans would rather watch their team play in person, you cannot beat a good atmosphere and the camaraderie in the stands. But if the digital age of watching football evolves further, then we have to question what attendance figures will look like in the coming decades. Particularly, if trains continue to strike and limit the diehard fans' ability to get to games.