The London Underground strike may be about to cause one or two problems for the England team this evening for their match against Andorra. The kick-off time has already been put back to 8.15, and people that have bought tickets have already been advised that they will be able to claim refunds if they are not able to trek across to north London this evening in order to make the match. The FA may have cause to consider the emotional argument for having chosen Wembley with some irritation when they look at situations such as this evening. The option was there for them to move the national stadium to a more central location in England, but the emotional argument eventually won the day and London, with all of its infrastructural difficulties, was the choice.
To a great extent, though, this is part of the problem which will, in the long term, have to be solved with regard to football and travel. Most modern stadia take little to no interest in public transport, giving easy access only to those that chose to travel by car. This is not, however, an environmentally sustainable way of controlling the flow of the public to and from football matches. Some clubs, such as Brighton & Hove Albion, have resolved the issue of car parking by adding an element of “park & ride” to their tickets. If you buy a ticket for a Brighton match, you will get a free bus ride from the railway station to the Withdean Stadium, a couple of miles out of town. A similar scheme is planned for when they move even further out, to Falmer.
No such park & ride scheme will be in place at Wembley this evening, and parking at the stadium is notoriously difficult. 70,000 tickets had been sold for the match this evening, but it would now be less than surprising to see less than half of that number actually being willing or able to slog their way through the tail end of what might turn out to be the worst rush hour of the year, especially considering that they have already been offered their money back if they’re unable to attend. “It’s only Andorra”, they may well think, and it would be difficult to blame them. It has been said that, without the underground running, Wembley can accommodate approximately 30,000 people, so don’t be surprised to see a lot of empty seats there tonight. At least we’ll be spared the indignity of it being played behind closed doors, though and that was being discussed up to yesterday.
This is not the time and place to argue the rights and wrongs of the tube strike. The strike has already started, and London’s travel capacity (which is pushed to its limit even with the underground in place) is almost certainly creaking under the weight of hundreds of thousands of people that would usually be using the underground above the surface, firing up their cars and cramming themselves onto the buses. Sitting here, drinking a nice cup of coffee before departing on what I assume will be a stress-free journey to work, they have my every sympathy, as do those intending to travel to Wembley this evening.