Stoke precedent will have peers sweating nervously

Posted by James Whittaker

Stoke CityGettyImagesStoke are pulling out the stops to boost the number of their away fans.

It was at a meeting six months ago, in the presence of representatives from all Premier League clubs, that Stoke City chief executive Tony Scholes first proposed free away travel for fans. At the time it was reported it was deemed a throwaway comment designed to appease the masses and create the impression that the men in suits cared.

Whilst most of the clubs there that day were noting down in their free notepads how the extra TV money for the season could be used at their respective clubs, it transpires that the idea was genuine and Stoke appeared as a lone voice in wanting to ease the financial burden for those fans travelling the country following their team.

- Stoke offer free away travel for season

When you think that the club have already frozen ticket prices for the last five years, this is an extraordinary gesture that comes hot on the heels of even more exciting news coming from the Britannia; that Mame Biram Diouf could be subject to an £8 million bid from the Potters.

It is welcome recognition of the sacrifice the modern football fan has to make, with the advent of astronomical TV deals and player salaries, this fan has gone from paying under £10 for a ticket to watch Stoke away to upwards of £40, all to ensure the Premier League's stars can afford the latest Gucci wash bag to throw in the boot of their Hummer.

It's a pioneering move (and one that will be looked on with envy by the fans of Stoke's opponents) by the club, who will also benefit, no doubt having one eye on rekindling interest in watching the side on the road following years of abject misery; the white flag was often waved before a ball was even inflated, let alone kicked.

Away attendances have dwindled considerably and this move, along with other positive noises coming from the club, can only improve that and ensure the once famous wall of noise isn't just available to the players at the bear pit of the Britannia.

Along with the news of the management team monitoring supporter opinion online, it's encouraging to see signs that the often runaway nature of the Premier League has not left the lifeblood of the game behind. Not at Stoke City anyway.

In fact, one can only hope that one of Scholes' other suggestions is also taken forward; limiting away ticket prices to be no higher than the lowest priced home ticket. That move could see Stoke fans paying less than £15 to scale the heady heights of the away enclosure up at St James' Park (the difference could perhaps be invested in Oxygen tanks or a horse charity?).

I wouldn't expect that one to come to fruition just yet though, after this announcement alone there will still be a few chief execs on the phone to their bank managers breaking the potential bad news.

Well done Stoke!

Vis Unita Fortior

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