September 7, 2016
Report to supporters on the BRSC Coach Travel provision to Stamford Bridge.
We have largely completed our investigations regarding the coach travel issues on Tuesday 23rd August 2016. We offer our sincere apologies to those supporters who we let down with the coach travel arrangements to Chelsea. In particular, we deeply regret the fact that three coaches arrived at Stamford Bridge after the match had started and that the supporters on those particular coaches missed a significant portion of the first half.
A lengthy meeting with the coach operator was held on Tuesday 30th August 2016. They have provided the information we requested on the arrival time for all coaches and have conducted their own investigation. They have always provided an excellent service for supporters travelling with Bristol Rovers Supporters Club and have always got us to games in time in the past. This late arrival to an important football match is the very last thing they would have wanted. They have expressed their regret that some supporters did not reach Stamford Bridge in sufficient time to watch the entire match. They have generously offered to contribute to any refunds we offer to those supporters who disembarked well after the scheduled start time of the game.
Just as Bristol Rovers and its supporters have not been to Stamford Bridge in many years the same is true of the coach operator. When setting the departure time, in agreement with us, they were aware of the likely impact of the key road closure near the stadium and the long term roadworks nearby. As is now evident the planned journey time of 4 hours 30 minutes was not enough on this occasion to ensure that all coaches for this particular match on this specific date arrived at their destination in sufficient time. We all wish we could turn the clock back.
Supporters who travelled by coach were not supposed to be dropped off close to the stadium but were directed elsewhere. All the coaches were required to park up at a hard to find location some distance from Stamford Bridge. On arrival we found that the drop off zone had negligible signposting to the Chelsea ground for coach travellers. The overall stewarding inside the ground itself was very well organised but many supporters have reported that some individual steward’s advice was less than helpful in terms of guidance and directions. Given everything we now know we will leave considerably earlier for any future fixture against any big London sides such as Chelsea.
This fixture and journey has made us conscious of the way we will need to adapt our approach to any future matches against major clubs such as Chelsea. Following this experience, we have reviewed our planned departure times in the current season against the bigger League One clubs such as Sheffield United and Bolton Wanderers. In the near future we will inform supporters about the proposed earlier starting times for matches throughout the current season. We are determined to ensure that supporters do not experience such an unsatisfactory experience in the future.
On Wednesday 31st August 2016, our BRSC Committee meeting was held to consider the next steps. Half of the committee members had themselves been coach stewards and they shared the frustration and disappointment of supporters on their coaches. We have asked each coach steward to provide us with the exact location of their disembarking and the precise time they arrived. The stewards have also been asked to outline any concerns they had and to briefly describe their journey so that we gain the fullest possible picture of the events.
There were 14 supporters club coaches organised for the EFL Round Two Cup Match at Stamford Bridge. Six of those departed from The Kingsway in Kingswood and eight were from the Memorial Stadium. The scheduled departure time was 3.15 pm from both locations. Most of the coach journeys ran smoothly but not all supporters had a hassle free experience. We apologise to any supporter who travelled on the official coaches and had a less than satisfactory experience.
Our investigation indicates a complex chain of events rather than a straightforward cause for the late arrival of some of the coaches. The motorway accident on the other carriageway and the accident close to the stadium that caused a road closure preventing access to the drop off point caused significant delays. This road closure near the stadium due to the accident caused the stewards to allow supporters to disembark at places that would ordinarily not be considered as acceptable. We normally insist that supporters only leave the coach at or near the same location that they will find the coach after the match.
This protocol is designed to ensure that supporters are easily able to find their way back to the coach after the game has finished. As a result of dropping off supporters at various locations several found great difficulty finding the coach drop zone after the game had concluded. This delayed the return journey for several coaches. One or two coaches were forced to remain behind for a considerable time. Eventually, everyone who travelled up to watch the game and wanted to take the coach back “bumped into a coach” or found the coach drop off zone. The only supporters who travelled up on the BRSC coaches but did not return on the official coaches were those that chose to travel back by independent means.
While some coaches arrived one hour before the kick off some other coaches did not drop off supporters until after the scheduled kick off time. We have decided to give a full refund of the coach fee paid by those supporters who were on the last three coaches to arrive at Stamford Bridge. The coaches concerned are Yellow Coach Two that departed from The Memorial Stadium, Kingswood Coach 1 and Kingswood Coach 6. The supporters on these three coaches disembarked after the match had started and missed a significant portion of the first half
We have set up a system for refunds that we hope is straightforward and easy to deal with. Our sincere thanks to all those supporters who have contacted us personally, by phone or by email up to this point. We propose to refund the supporters in the coaches that arrived so very late, by direct bank transfer. If you were a supporter on one of the three coaches concerned, please provide us with your ACCOUNT NAME, your ACCOUNT SORT CODE and your ACCOUNT NUMBER so that we can provide you with a full refund. You can contact us easily by using the CONTACT US form found on the Bristol Rovers Supporters Club website: HERE. If you prefer to contact us by email the address to use is: [email protected] If you prefer to contact us by post with your bank details the full address is: Bristol Rovers Supporters Club, 199 Two Mile Hill Road, Kingswood, Bristol. BS15 1AZ.
Please do not use the telephone for this process of providing your bank details. It could prove to be a very frustrating experience attempting to get through on the phone to the supporter’s club shop in the very near future. In trying to raise as much money as we can for Bristol Rovers FC we operate a lean operation at our supporters club shop at 199 Two Mile Hill Road.
The supporters club staff next week will be busy with match and coach tickets for the away games at Yeovil Town, Bradford City and Sheffield United as well as their normal duties. They will also have the free coach tickets and match tickets to sell for Swindon Town in a very short time period. We are anticipating a very high level of demand for the free coach travel to Swindon Town generously offered by the board and owner.
Finally, we hope that you can enjoy a trouble free experience when travelling by the official coaches in future and we will do our very best to ensure that this is the last ever occasion that supporters arrive at a match venue after the start time.