Chelsea have been accused of penny-pinching and putting financial strain on supporters after removing a £10 coach subsidy for travel to domestic away games. The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has reacted furiously to the decision, with the club’s insistence that it was “not financially sustainable to continue to offer subsidised coach travel” doing little to win supporters over.
The CST called the move appalling and pointed out that it comes not long after Chelsea broke the British transfer record for the second time this year by buying Moisés Caicedo from Brighton in a deal worth up to £115m.
Chelsea have spent almost £1bn on signings since being bought by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital last year. That point has not been lost on the CST, which met with club officials this month to urge them not to remove subsidised coach travel. The CST has said supporters who use the club coaches fear they will be priced out of attending away games.
Chelsea will lay on coaches for selected games for men’s and women’s games. The first coach provided is for the trip to Bournemouth on 17 September. The cost for the journey would be £29 but the CST has agreed to part-fund the subsidy, making the fare £10.
The CST said: “Chelsea Football Club (CFC) has today announced that it will remove the full coach subsidy for away domestic travel. The appalling decision will force those who rely on the service to pay significantly more to travel to away fixtures.
“Despite representations from the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) and coach users, CFC has unfortunately decided that maintaining the £10 subsidy is not ‘financially sustainable’. It is important to note that this decision was made in the same year that the club broke the transfer record twice. It is widely rumoured that the coach subsidy budget was approximately 250k.
“Earlier this month, the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust met with club officials in response to online rumours that the coach subsidy would be removed for the 23-24 season. CFC clarified that at the time a decision had not been made but confirmed that they were evaluating the subsidy budget.
“During the meeting, The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust made representations to the club. The Trust stated that removing the subsidy entirely would adversely impact the following user groups [not exhaustive]:
· Young supporters
· Supporters who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters
· People who are unable to drive due to cost or medical conditions
· Supporters who are ambulant disabled
· Supporters who require to be dropped off very close to the stadium
· Vulnerable supporters
· Supporters who rely on this affordable mode of transport to support the club
“In addition, the club received feedback from coach users themselves. The overwhelming majority of respondents who rely on the service communicated to the club that the coach subsidy must remain in some way and that removing it entirely would outprice supporters and would have disastrous consequences.”
The feedback from the CST and coach users was not enough to save the subsidy. “On Friday, the CST again met with the club to communicate that at a time when they should be taking active steps to make football affordable for more people, the decision to remove the subsidy in full is totally unacceptable,” the CST said. “This decision also contradicts the commitment to inclusivity that the club guaranteed during takeover discussions held last spring.
“The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust has therefore decided to part-fund the cost of the upcoming away travel to Bournemouth on this one occasion. The trust will subsidise the cost from the quoted £29 to £10 to highlight the appalling decision and to give the club additional time to fully reassess the feedback received from user groups. It appears that during a cost-of-living crisis, Chelsea FC are happy to increase the financial burden on many supporters by penny-pinching.”
The club have been approached for comment.