Give travelling fans their money back

Christmas spirit: Fans at some grounds enjoyed their day but there was nothing for fed-up Millers fans to feel festive about
Christmas spirit: Fans at some grounds enjoyed their day but there was nothing for fed-up Millers fans to feel festive about
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A PLAN that offers some sort of compensation to away fans who have a wasted journey is something that the Football League should consider.

Rotherham United supporters would certainly welcome any such initiative, although the logistics of how it would operate is something that would need studying closely - but there has to be a way of making a satisfactory scheme.

Many Millers followers will now have endured three wasted journeys after Saturday’s game at Bristol Rovers was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

The decision - with no announcement from Rovers that there was even an inspection planned - came minutes before noon. Rotherham’s following, expected to be between 300 and 400, was well on its way to Bristol by then.

It is certainly worth an investigation by the League into setting up some sort of compensation fund that may be able to either refund travel costs for official supporters coaches after wasted journeys or pay the cost of travel when the game is rearranged.

Obviously any such scheme would always have problems - car-drivers and those travelling independently might wonder why they couldn’t claim - but it is surely something worthy of looking into.

There are times when postponements are unavoidable. Rotherham’s original game at Accrington was a case in point.

The downpour of Biblical proportions in the hour before kick-off that night left the Crown Ground pitch under water. Some Rotherham fans had even got inside when the ‘off’ decision was taken less than 50 minutes before kick-off.

Then there was the 6.15pm announcement for the original FA Cup replay at Meadow Lane with the pitch frozen.

Many of the 1,000-plus Millers fans who had tickets for that game had either arrived or were very close to Nottingham.

On both occasions, a number of supporters could not make the rearranged game.

This weekend, Rotherham fans were not the only ones who had a wasted journey. For example, Brighton fans suffered similar frustration when their team’s game at Blackburn was called off as the heavy rain swept across the country.

Obviously guidelines would have to be drawn up and criteria met but it is certainly something worth looking at and surely football, awash as it is with money at the top level, can find something to aid its frustrated fans who find they are out of pocket and haven’t even seen a ball kicked.

Millers chief operating officer Paul Douglas said he was angered at the lack of action by Bristol Rovers on Saturday morning in coming to an earlier decision as rain teemed down in the West Country - or Wet Country as they are calling it down those parts.

“Members of our party who were down in Bristol were concerned on Saturday morning because it was raining as heavy as ever but I was unable to get communication with Bristol until after 11.15am,” said Douglas.

“They should have acted earlier rather than wait for the referee to get to the ground. He’d been overnighting in the area so was available from anytime and when he got there at almost noon, water was already standing on the pitch, it was still raining and the decision was a formality.

“There is a procedure - set down by the League - that clubs must follow and they should inform the opponents, the referee, the League and the media when there is any doubt at all but this clear process was not followed and that is simply not good enough.

“You have to give consideration to travelling fans, that is insisted on by the League - and had there been notice of a pitch inspection then our fans on the way down would hear of that and can make an informed decision on whether to wait for the inspection outcome or carry on.

“I feel for our fans and it’s really not good enough. You have to keep fans up to speed with what is happening.

“Bristol Rovers have sat on a decision and it’s ridiculous.”

It was actually Rotherham themselves who first indicated publicly there was to be a pitch inspection after hearing from one of their own management team that the referee was on his way to look at the pitch which already had water standing on parts of it.

“I’m raising the matter with the Football League - the clear process was not followed,” added Douglas.

“We had enough experience of games being called off at Don Valley Stadium and I’d like to think that decisions weren’t made late and we did not dawdle.

“Sometimes situations are unavoidable but you have to do everything you can and take fans into consideration and it is imperative of clubs that they act early.”

Douglas said that the weekend rain would not have caused any problems at the New York Stadium - “I spoke to the groundsman on Saturday and he said it was perfect.”

The postponement meant Rotherham missed the chance to jump into third place.

A win would have put them above Cheltenham who had lost 4-1 at Rochdale the previous night.

Rotherham’s Boxing Day game with second-placed Port Vale at the New York Stadium is a sell-out for home fans, the last of the home allocation being sold on Saturday.

Vale hope to sell their 2,000 allocation, having sold half by the weekend.

Vale will start the game three points ahead of the Millers but with a vastly superior goal difference.

The referee will be Trevor Kettle.