Stoke City supporters have praised their club for putting on free coach travel for all away games next season.
The Britannia Stadium outfit announced on Friday they will provide the service to all fans on a club coach to any of their 19 away fixtures in the Premier League.
Stoke have enjoyed healthy away followings since their return to the top flight in 2008, but the poor economic climate has seen numbers fall with the club hopeful that their gesture will bring an upturn.
And official supporters club representative Bryan Shaw told OMNISPORT that he was delighted with the club’s announcement.
“Its excellent news,” he said. “The club have decided to do something with the money they receive from Sky, and to give some of the money back to the supporters.
“I think the away following will start to increase, as a lot of people have found out in the past it’s an expensive day out to go and watch your team away from home. What with the coach fare, your ticket, food and drink, it’s an expensive day out and this will go some way towards helping people to afford an away trip.”
Details of the incentive were met with approval after being put to Stoke’s Fans Council last week, further strengthening the link between Stoke and its followers.
“We were called to a meeting last week and the club proposed away travel on official coaches was free for the season,” Shaw continued. “It came as a pleasant surprise, it will affect an awful lot of Stoke supporters and make it affordable to families.
“I think the club realise what a difference the fans make on matchdays wherever they go, although in the last few season the away support has dropped we are a very vocal crowd. And the club realise they need the crowd as much as the crowd need the football club.”
And Shaw hopes that other club’s will follow Stoke’s lead and begin to introduce more incentives to support fans attending matches.
“A lot of other clubs can learn from this,” he stated. “They (the clubs) pay these higher transfer fees and wages (for players), and they should start to think about those people who don’t earn anywhere near that kind of money, that dig in their pockets to go home and away.”