How do Footballers Travel? | Full Guide
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How Do Footballers Travel? – Full Guide

You often hear footballers and managers complaining about packed schedules. And it is now common to see teams play games only 2 or 3 days apart. Of course, this means little rest, but it’s easy to forget that the team has to travel to and from these matches. Which can be exhausting in itself. For this reason, travelling in comfort and with speed is essential for the top footballers. Anyone who has played Sunday league football will be familiar with the uncomfortable minibus carrying the team to and from games at the weekend. Needless to say, top-level footballers travel very differently. In more comfort and style, including coaches, planes, private jets and hotel stays.  

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Domestic and European fixtures are the main reasons that footballers travel.  Premier League footballers are lucky in a way due to the size of the UK being fairly small. In other countries in Europe such as Spain and Italy the country is not only larger. Meaning further travel, but also has island-based teams in their top leagues. This makes travel difficult, particularly for those clubs on the island, such as Las Palmas, RCD Mallorca, and Cagliari. Footballers also travel to training, as well as when transferring to another team to undergo contract talks and medicals.

footballers travel

Footballers Travel to Matches 

How do Footballers Travel to both Home & Away Games?

Well, typically in the UK for an away game, if the journey time is under 3 hours. Teams will often travel by coach. In fact, clubs try to ensure that footballers travel for a maximum of 3 hours. As any more can result in negative effects on performance due to stiffness and muscle issues. 

Depending on the kick off time and distance, the team may stay overnight in a local hotel. For example, with a 12:30 kick off time. It would be too much of an early start and risk to travel in the morning. Football clubs advise that their players live within a 30-60-minute commute of the training ground. Footballers travel to the training ground individually before embarking on the coach from there to their hotel for the night. 

If you go to games you’ll notice that even the home team arrives via coach. Players could easily make their own way to the stadium; however, it is much easier, safer, and better for team dynamics to arrive together. The players would drive to the training ground as usual, where they would get the coach to the stadium.

footballers travel
bus

Long Journeys 

For journeys over 3 or 4 hours, teams would often fly. The club would charter a passenger jet and travel together with the players and backroom staff. In the Premier League, the Southern clubs, including the London clubs, would often fly to the Northern cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and definitely Newcastle. These flights takes around 1-2 hours and would usually be done the day before the game.

The only circumstances in which the team would travel on the day would be if the kick-off was in the evening (7:45PM – 8:00PM). Football clubs prefer to arrive early so they can prepare for the fixture by training in or around the match stadium, have team meetings, and ensure that the team are well rested at the hotel. After the game however, footballers travel home as soon as possible, often taking a flight the same day.  

Infamous Match-Travelling Events in England

In 2015, Arsenal received criticism for taking a chartered jet to Norwich, just 100 miles away from North London. The flight only took 14 minutes, whereas travelling by coach would only have taken around 2 hours. Obviously, it was the carbon emissions associated with unnecessary flying which drew criticism from environmentalists. The same kind of pressure on reducing carbon emissions exists among all clubs and, as a result, domestic travel in the Premier League does see fewer flights being taken.  

Recently, Manchester United players were seen boarding a train after their victory over Watford. There was an altercation between players and the public at the station, resulting in Marouane Felliani slapping a phone out of a man’s hand is he tried to video the players.

This type of incident probably explains why mostly, footballers travel in private via coach and plane. Manchester United stated they often take the train for fixtures into London. However, now with Covid-19 concerns, football clubs will certainly be travelling privately to avoid the risk of contamination and contact with people outside of their clubs ‘bubble’.  

Other Ways how Footballers Travel

Many footballers would have experienced travelling via private jet, however this isn’t standard practice for getting to games.  

The only time top players will travel by private jet is when they are playing international matches for their national teams. A good example of this is Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Alisson Becker and Fabinho who all represent Brazil internationally. Liverpool like to get the players back on Merseyside as soon as possible so that they can rest up and also attend training sessions in preparation for their next game, so they often charter a private jet to get them back quickly. 

Another time teams will charter a private aircraft is during the transfer window. Clubs arrange for prospective new players to arrive for a medical and, if all is well, to sign a contract. Private jets are sometimes necessary, particularly on deadline day where time is of the essence. 

Football Travelling Disasters  

Unfortunately, the game has seen disasters and fatalities arising from footballers travelling with their club. While it is important to keep the team together while travelling, there is a downside as well. This was painfully apparent in the Munich air disaster. 

Munich Air Disaster | The Busby Babes

Manchester United were one of the best teams in world football in 1958, and had just beaten Red Star Belgrade in the European Cup. With Belgrade being too far to fly non-stop, the club planned to land in Munich and refuel. After refuelling, the plane had tried, and failed, to take off twice due to an issue with the engine. The runway had become increasingly covered in snow and slush as the plane attempted to take off for a 3rd time. The plan skidded and crashed, and 23 Manchester united players and staff unfortunately lost their lives. 

2016 Chapecoense

Another tragic event occurred in South America, when Brazilian Chapecoense football squad were travelling to the 2016 Copa Sudamericana Finals. The aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed as a result, killing 71 players and their entourage. 3 players survived, including Alan Ruschel, who miraculously resumed his football career.  

Unbelievably, it was reported that the Argentinian national team, including Lionel Messi, were using the same model of plane soon after the disaster, and upon landing, they only had 18 minutes of fuel left. Another tragic event was narrowly avoided in 2016. 

Emiliano Sala To Cardiff

The Premier League has also experienced a catastrophic travelling accident recently. After Cardiff City signed Emiliano Sala from Nantes, the player was due to travel from France to Cardiff for his first training session. The aircraft used was small and the post-crash report stated that the pilot was not fully qualified to operate the plane. Tragically, it crashed into the English Channel, in a truly terrible but avoidable incident.  

The Non-Flying Dutchman

Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp was famously scared of flying. He revealed this was due to his experience in Italy where they would travel in small planes to away games. Bergkamp stated that he had a genuine phobia, and that he considered seeking psychiatric help. Although his managers and fans took well to his phobia, it was actually quite inconvenient for the club and the player.

When travelling for European away games, Bergkamp was often left out of the squad due to the difficulty of reaching the destination. In some cases, it was possible to travel by other means, however Arsene Wenger revealed that the long travel times were not always worth it.

How Coronavirus Affected the Way Footballers Travel

Covid-19 has also made footballer travel more difficult. A comical incident in League 1 saw Oxford United players have to take taxis to reach their fixture in the last minute. The coach that they were due to travel on was sprayed thoroughly with an alcohol-based disinfectant to combat the danger of any Covid-19 exposure. However, installed within the coach was a breathalyser that the driver had to blow into before the engine could be started. The alcohol-based sanitiser had got into the system, thus the alcohol content in the breathalyser was so high that the bus was unable to be driven for 6 hours! 

Conclusion

In summary, footballer travel is a huge part of the game. The job of a footballer is one of the most travel-intensive jobs you can get. Players have to adapt to regular flying, coach journeys, and being away from their family during the football season. Luckily for the players, all they have to do is turn up to the training ground and the transport is all sorted for them. How well players can adapt to the travelling must have an effect on performance, and it is bound to influence some of the results you see on TV. 

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