EPL Stoke City will offer its supporters free coach travel to all of its EPL games in the '13-14 season. It is believed to be the first time any side in England's top four divisions has undertaken such an initiative for an entire campaign. Coach buses will leave from Britannia Stadium for all 19 EPL top-flight matches, starting with the Aug. 17 match at Liverpool. The club is introducing the initiative on the back of the increase in its income delivered by new TV deals, in a bid to try and ease the financial burden on fans who follow the club (Stoke City). In London, Stuart James reported Stoke City has been "widely applauded" for taking this "unprecedented step." Stoke City Chair Peter Coates said the gesture was made following discussions across the Premier League about "how to arrest the decline in the number of away fans travelling to matches." Stoke City was "invited by the Premier League to put forward ideas to address the issue." The club "submitted a paper suggesting that putting on free coach travel for away supporters was worth exploring." Coates said although Stoke "didn't get universal approval" from the rest of the Premier League clubs, it has "decided to press ahead with the initiative, which will start with the trip to Anfield on the opening day of the season." Coates: "We think that the cost of travel is very expensive these days. We are going to try this experiment for 12 months, and we think it will be appreciated by our supporters" (GUARDIAN, 7/19). The BBC reported Stoke City "previously subsidised ticket prices" for those traveling to an FA Cup quarterfinal tie at Anfield, waiving its right to 45% of the away ticket sales so it could offer tickets to fans at £20 ($30) instead of £35 ($53) (BBC, 7/19).
'GROUND BREAKING': In London, Glenn Moore opined in an industry where the first instinct of most execs "is to plot more ways of 'monetising the customer base,' Stoke City’s decision to offer free coach travel to fans for away matches is genuinely ground-breaking." As Stoke City indicated, "with the sharp rise in television income enjoyed by Premier League clubs they can afford it." But few rivals "would consider spending this windfall on supporters in such a direct fashion." At some clubs, "it might be regarded as a gimmick, but Stoke are one of the last to be locally owned and Peter Coates has always been prepared to look beyond the bottom line." Home ticket prices "have not risen since promotion five years ago despite significant expenditure on transfer fees" (INDEPENDENT, 7/20).
ManU "may re-introduce 'football club' to badge after it was dropped 15 years ago," according to the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. ManU Exec Vice-Chair Ed Woodward "is considering whether to re-introduce the words 'football club'" to the Red Devils' badge. The words were controversially removed in '98 "following an image change, irritating many supporters." Now Woodward, who returned early for ManU's preseason tour on "urgent transfer business," has been consulting with the Glazer family about reversing that move. Woodward said, "I didn't like that change of badge. (Joint-Chair) Joel (Glazer) didn't like that change. We will look at that and have a think about that. We are a football club, not a business" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 7/21).
Police "are probing an arson attack" that gutted Scottish Premier League Second Division Rangers’ new £500,000 ($763,000) luxury team coach, according to Derek Alexander of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The bus was destroyed in the early hours blaze on Saturday "after flames tore through the garage where it was kept." Three other coaches -- including a second one used by the Ibrox club -- "were also burnt out." Police confirmed that "the blaze was deliberate." Rangers Manager Ally McCoist said, "It saddens me. It really does. I think it’s pathetic that people would go to these extremes. It sounds like a premeditated attack on Rangers’ bus, and I’m gutted about it but thankfully nobody’s been killed." Rangers "only took delivery of the state-of-the-art bus last month." It featured "satellite TV, kitchen facilities and a physio treatment area" (DAILY RECORD, 7/21).
The Sauber F1 team's debt of CHF 105M ($112M) "will soon be erased as its new Russian investors will invest" a reported CHF 470M ($499M) in the team, according to BLICK. So far, the Russians "have not paid one cent" -- the money "will arrive by the end of August at the earliest." The team's structure "will remain the same." Team Founder Peter Sauber will keep the majority of shares, and the team's headquarters, including wind tunnel, will stay in Hinwil, Switzerland. However, the new investors will not be completely unselfish and demand a seat on the board. In addition, the time of Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn "seems to be running out." When, and who, "will replace her is still up in the air" (BLICK, 7/21).
Spanish second division side Deportivo La Coruña President Augusto César Lendoiro announced on Sunday that Real Madrid will be invited to the 68th edition of the Teresa Herrera Trophy preseason football tournament at Deportivo's Riazor Stadium on Aug. 29, according to AS. Lendoiro said that Real Madrid will pay its own expenses, making it a "very special gift" from Real Madrid to Deportivo. Lendoiro: "Real Madrid's visit will mean €1M ($1.3M) and they will come between official games. It is the best gift they could give" (AS, 7/21).
LENDOIRO CONFIDENT: The EFE reported Lendoiro recognized that he is "trying to convince creditors to release the money that was deposited in the club's account after various embargoes have been imposed," so that the club will be able to pay off its debt to its players by July 31 to avoid administrative relegation. Lendoiro: "There is enough money to pay the players everything they are owed and Deportivo is trying in every way so that creditors will realize that the risk of relegation does not have to be run." Lendoiro "said that eliminating the risk can happen because the Bankruptcy Act recognizes that 'in the bankruptcies of sporting organizations there are exceptions that account for sporting legislation." Lendoiro said, "To avoid risks we have to pay the quantity" (EFE, 7/21).