In the Beginning | The Early Years | Travel | Publicity | General Meetings | Social | Sport | Discipline and Arbitration | Relationship with other Bodies | The Future | In Remembrance


As the principal activity of most APFSCIL's clubs was the provision of travel facilities for their members, it was natural that this subject should have early priority for shared experiences and co-ordination of approach to the railway authorities. Although most journeys seemed to be from Euston, from where party travel was encouraged, it was quickly established that a wide variety existed in the discounts available (if any) and the conditions applicable to group applications at other termini, particularly Liverpool Street, Paddington and Waterloo, each of whose lines served fewer league clubs. Some termini issued a single ticket for the whole group, which brought administrative problems, whilst most provided individual tickets. Representing these differences would provide the Association with its first opportunity to gauge the benefit of its collective bargaining power.

As a preliminary to any such co-ordinated approach, member clubs were asked to provide details of the respective deals they had been able to negotiate. Additionally a deliberate "challenge" was posed to Liverpool Street by seeking a reduced fare for a large, but joint, party of Everton and Norwich supporters travelling together for their game at Carrow Road. It achieved the princely discount of 19 pence on the normal fare! Controversially, before any collective approach could be made, British Rail announced a ban on football travel. Ironically, however, this provided an opportunity for the Association to register its existence by way of a written protest and to sow the seeds of a relationship which was soon to flourish. It transpired that the ban applied only to whole train charters, while APFSCIL clubs' requirement was for group facilities on normal service trains. In the meantime, Euston began to offer party rates for groups of 10 rather than 20, a move of particular benefit to smaller clubs. A further complaint opportunity to establish the Association's existence rose from British Rail's announcement that, for the first time, no trains would run on Boxing Day, on which a full football fixture list was scheduled.

There is no doubt that the Association's formation, and its encouragement of new clubs to form, played a part in increasing use of rail travel by groups of supporters and this itself prompted a variety of reactions by the train companies to the growth. For example, in December 1975, Euston began to provide tickets on a sale or return basis for the first time. In the light of these constantly changing conditions, it was decided to make no central approach to British Rail but instead to target those regions who operated no established or favourable system. A positive response was obtained from both Southern and Western Regions, with points of contact and broad guidelines established. When, subsequently, Southern Region attempted to introduce a minimum number of 32 for party travel, the lines of communication already established quickly enabled the Association to secure a reduction to 10, in line with the policy of others.

Here for the first time in London was an organisation with strict rules of conduct whose voice was becoming acceptable to BR. Supporters of opposing teams could be trusted to travel together on service trains, thus maximising the benefits for both of group discounts, or in some cases guaranteeing the viability of an excursion which neither club could have organised individually. Joint travel arrangements sometimes brought problems, however, and became an early topic for debate by member clubs at a General Meeting. Some clubs did not always charge their members the same as the rail ticket price. They might, not always with the general knowledge of their membership, round the price to cover administrative costs, or use a surcharge on attractive trips to subsidise those less popular. Should members of other clubs, travelling as guests, be expected to pay such surcharges? No rule could cover all circumstances but, typical of the spirit of co-operation upon which APFSCIL was founded, it was generally accepted that the fares to be charged should be agreed in advance, rather than become a possible source of friction on the day itself when fellow travellers found themselves paying different amounts.

A co-ordinated approach to British Rail was eventually prompted by a meeting between the Association's Committee and Sports Minister Denis Howell who referred to the Transport Minister a number of the points made to him. As result of this, during 1977, BR's Inter-City Manager met representatives of APFSCIL and the National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs and in due course drew up guidelines which in 1978 resulted in the publication of a booklet "British Rail Welcomes the Well-behaved Football Supporter". This set out the administrative arrangements which would apply and the responsibilities of the group organiser and identified for each region of the country a member of BR staff known as the Football Liaison Officer.

This arrangement proved to be valuable for several years, reducing the variations in treatment and providing designated points of contact when problems arose. Indeed in 1981 the Association, in collaboration with the National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs, felt encouraged to put to British Rail proposals for "small party travel" (i.e. groups smaller than 10), backed by a "Supporters' Railcard" with similar conditions to those which existed for Students and Senior Citizens but valid only on match days. This idea was, however, received with courtesy rather than interest, the view being that sufficient additional revenue would be unlikely to be generated to justify such special arrangements. Possibly more successful has been the practice, particularly with Euston, to demonstrate at the time of the annual fare review the collective turnover provided by the Association's member clubs in the hope that the law of diminishing returns would not be ignored.

The benefits of the 1978 corporate arrangements lost some of their impact, however, when British Rail later devolved into regionalised profit centres and effectively disappeared more recently when independent Train Operating Companies took franchises to operate rail services. It has not all been bad news, however, for although there is no longer any consistent national policy, the open market has generated a number of "Special Offers", many of them at week-ends, of which APFSCIL clubs have been able to take advantage. To co-ordinate information and represent the Association in these corporate matters, a Travel Officer position was added to the Administrative Committee in 1986. Since then, occasional meetings have been held of the Travel Officers of all clubs, at some of which representatives of Virgin Travel and Great North-Eastern Railway have attended.

Ian Todd

In the Beginning | The Early Years | Travel | Publicity | General Meetings | Social | Sport | Discipline and Arbitration | Relationship with other Bodies | The Future | In Remembrance