The following article appeared in the official matchday programme - Forest Review - on Friday 1st October for the game against Birmingham City
words: David Marples
It was something of a pleasant surprise to stumble across a league table recently, which showed average away attendances in the Championship so far this season. It came as little surprise to see Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Leeds United fans safely ensconced in the top three (although seeing Villa at the top of any table is, in many ways, not just surprising but downright mind boggling). But loitering snugly in sixth position was Nottingham Forest with an average away attendance of 2,018 and a total of 10,191.
Furthermore, the trips to Brentford, Aston Villa and Rotherham all sold out.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising – Forest fans have always travelled in good numbers, even when times have been tough. However, given how expensive away tickets are in the Championship this season, such away support deserves recognition.
To watch Forest away from home this season, prices have ranged from £23 at Brentford and Rotherham, to £30 (Bristol City), £32 (Brighton), £35 (Villa), to £36 (Sheffield Wednesday). To truly make your eyes water, it would have cost you £43 if you wanted to pay on the day at Hillsborough. All this despite the team yet to collect three points on the road this season.
Free coach travel to away games has certainly gone some way to alleviating the pressure on the wallet. The club has also made a conscious effort to make games affordable this season for both home and away fans (£18 for Fulham, £20 for Arsenal, £24 for Birmingham).
Yet in the context of Reading capping their away tickets at £20 and the introduction of away tickets being capped at £30 in the Premier League starting next season, paying anything north of £25 to watch Forest play away from home is a very difficult and jagged pill to swallow.
For many fans, away days are the highlight of the week – an opportunity to get well and truly out of the house. That feeling of seeing your team win away from home is difficult to beat. While it may be galling to see away fans celebrating at the City Ground, it is equally satisfying to see whole swathes of away fans silenced when Britt blasts one in to the Bridgford End goal. Football needs fans: home and away. Jock Stein put it best when he said, “Without fans, football is nothing.”
Whist we may mock when we see a paltry 241 away fans sitting huddled in a corner at the City Ground, there is also something very sad about such a sight. It is important to keep the culture of away days alive and to do so requires a whole league strategy alongside an agreement amongst clubs – perhaps in the form of a structured price system.
Otherwise, all fans suffer together.
You can subscribe to Forest Review and receive your copy on the day of the game. Click here for further details.