Today we hear from STAR Board members Colin and Mel Bishop
What does away travel mean to you?
It does not seem possible but it is just over a year since we have been on the road to watch Reading away. Our last away game was at Birmingham on 7 March 2020 and coincidentally we have been back at St Andrews this week, without fans.We have all had to adjust to a vastly different way of supporting our team even at home during this pandemic. We have all turned into couch football watchers or listeners. The usual way of travelling, meeting up, trying out the traditional match day fare, picking the team, analysing tactics, moaning, groaning, cheering and conducting an after match post-mortem have been sadly absent from our lives. We all look forward to our footballing lives returning to something akin to normality very soon, whatever normality is these days.
How do you get there?
So, we come to the question how do we get to away games? STAR offer coach travel and we know that coach travel is not for everyone. Some like going by train meeting up with mates and travelling together. Others prefer going by car. Whatever the means, ultimately it is about the camaraderie and supporting your team together along with perhaps the customary beer or two.This is where travelling by coach will diverge from other ways because, as organised transport, we have to comply with the law and it is against the Sporting Events Act (1986) to carry or permit the consumption of alcohol on official transport to a designated sporting event. This law also applies to supporters hiring mini-buses. If you want to combine your day with meeting up, going to the pub before the game, then coach travel is probably not for you.However, coach travel has its merits and, despite popular social media belief we are not all tightly zipped in our anoraks, clasping our lunch boxes and sitting glumly. Coach travellers are also computer literate and the workings of an ipad are not beyond us! Most of us use technology to entertain ourselves en route. We are a diverse bunch, the young, the old, and the in-betweens who do know how to laugh and joke and support our team. We just like the hassle-free, no driving and parking aspect. Coach travel is also a way for under 18s to travel to an away game, with parental permission, knowing that we will get them there and back safely. We take our responsibilities to all our members seriously but, in particular, for our under 18s all our stewards are DBS cleared so that parents can be assured that the safety and welfare of their children is paramount.
Memorable journeys with HorsemansOver the years we have had some memorable journeys. Late night returns from up north are especially good if we are coming back with three points. We have also come to the rescue of some independent travellers who have broken down and we have been able to help them out for the return. The Reading team itself was rescued a few years back. Their coach broke down on the M1 on the way to Barnsley. We managed to get one of our coaches to go back and pick the first team squad up from their broken-down vehicle and get them to the game on time.
Our travel partners Horseman Coaches provide us with the most up to date fleet of coaches and the most experienced and knowledgeable drivers. What they don’t know isn’t worth knowing. Nothing fazes them, not even multiple road closures late at night. On one evening game coming home from Bolton we were faced with five diversions one after the other – and they still got us back on time within driving hours. It is no surprise that once again they have won the national award for Coach Operators of the Year 2021.
Last minute reminder
STAR RFC Hall of Fame event – Sunday 21 March 7.30pm via RFC Facebook or YouTube channels – free and open to all.