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1 Aerial Phot Copy

blog: Improving matchday experiences through proactive stadium transport management.

Author: Neil Taylor

Every week as many as 700,000 fans of English football travel home and away to follow their team’s fortunes.  In towns and cities across the country, anywhere between 5,000 and 90,000 supporters are all trying to get to the same venue at roughly the same time, which is often a recipe for traffic congestion and chaos – but could we be managing this better?

Stadia as regeneration hubs

Derby County FC is a great example of how football can be a catalyst for local growth.  The club’s Pride Park Stadium replaced the Baseball Ground in 1997 and remains the 16th largest football stadium in England.  Initially standing isolated in an Enterprise Zone east of Derby city centre, the area around the stadium is now home to a large and vibrant business park that has developed over the last 20 years.  Recently joined by the adjacent Derby Arena, which houses the city’s velodrome and a number of other municipal sports facilities; the stadium itself now houses a bar and restaurant (The Yard), a Greggs, the DCFC club shop, offices, and a busy Starbucks coffee shop.  On a non-matchday the stadium has become a hub for the local business community, and a place people head to buy lunch or grab a coffee over a business meeting.

However, all this development in the vicinity of the stadium brought with it a number of growing pains.  Derelict land previously freely available to supporters for matchday parking gradually became private property, with savvy landowners quick to cash-in by offering more secure, but paid-for, matchday parking.  This had a dual effect of undermining the effectiveness of matchday road closures designed to safely control pre- and post-match pedestrian and vehicle movements, as well as pushing some supporters to seek free spaces in the neighbouring Chaddesden residential area (a 10-minute walk across the A52 overbridges to the north of the stadium) - prompting complaints from local residents and Councillors.  


By 2011 it was clear that existing matchday travel arrangements were not working satisfactorily.  At the time local bus operators were diverting their services to avoid traffic congestion around Pride Park pre- and post-match – further limiting the alternatives to matchday car travel for a number of supporters – while post-match home supporters returning to privately organised coaches were walking in the road alongside moving traffic within minutes of the final whistle sounding.   

Understanding supporter's travel patterns

ITP worked in partnership with DCFC, the club’s appointed Traffic Management contractors, Derby City Council, and Derbyshire Constabulary to establish a holistic picture of the pre- and post-match environment around the stadium, constructing an evidence base for change. Activities included:

  • Qualitative observations of matchday operations on Pride Park and informal dialogue with supporters.
  • Analysis of Council and DCFC car parking and traffic flow data, and matchday/non-matchday parking counts.
  • An online survey with over 1,000 DCFC supporters, and stakeholder meetings with fan and residents’ groups.
  • Analysis of aerial photography and video provided by Derbyshire Constabulary.
  • Constructive dialogue with local landowners about making their sites available for matchday parking.

Through this work we learned that over two-thirds of home supporters arrived by car on matchday, but more than half of these already shared their car journeys with other fans going to the game.  Around 15% of supporters walked, cycled or came by train – while 10% used public bus services or privately arranged supporter coaches.

Dialogue with supporter groups was particularly telling.  It revealed a reluctance to use ‘official’ club-controlled car parks close to the stadium on the basis they could take up to an hour to exit from after the final whistle.  Instead most supporters preferred to park on private land nearby, or further afield, in order to improve their chances of a quick getaway post-match.  This was mirrored by club data, which showed DCFC’s premium car parks close to the stadium often had spare capacity, even for the busiest home games, and with the supporter survey finding that 90% of fans leave within 15 minutes of the final whistle.  

4 Walking Home After The Game
Resolving congestion

The matchday transport strategy we developed and implemented sought to directly address four key influences on how people currently get to and from the stadium (parking availability and pricing, traffic congestion around the stadium, perceptions of walking distances, and lack of alternatives to driving).  Key Travel Plan and Transport Management strategy measures were:

  • Formal parking agreements and revenue sharing arrangements with off-site car parks, bringing them within the control of DCFC’s traffic management team and providing an option for people wanting to make a rapid exit after the game.
  • Reduced rate parking incentives in the DCFC premium car parks for cars carrying four or more people.
  • Moving home supporter coaches closer to the stadium, and within an extended post-match road closure.
  • Reintroducing pre- and post-match bus services, with negotiated supporter discounts on buses and trains.
  • Increased matchday parking restrictions and enforcement activity in neighbouring residential areas.
  • Better communication with supporters and local residents on their walking, cycling and public transport options.
  • Improved cycle parking at Pride Park Stadium – benefitting both matchday and non-matchday land-uses.

While not all of these measures were immediately successful, there were several notable quick wins.  The time taken to clear the club’s main home car parks reduced from around an hour to 45-minutes, with the car parks filling-up more often - increasing total parking revenues and maximising the number of people using these spaces.  

The extended road closures, initially implemented experimentally, were quickly hailed as a success by supporters who now felt safer when walking away from the stadium after the final whistle.  Reinstated bus services were also popular, operating on a commercial basis from stops within a modest walk of the stadium.  

These initial benefits were compounded when the adjacent development of the Derby Arena split the football club’s South Car Park (of 1,100 spaces) into two separate parking areas.  This gave DCFC the opportunity to operate one for supporters’ requiring a northbound exit via the A52 dual carriageway, and the other for those seeking to head into the city, or south on the A6.  In combination with the permanently-adopted extended post-match road closures, this further reduced the car park egress times to around 30 minutes following a busy home game at Pride Park.  

3 Off Site Parking

The recent opening of The Yard bar and restaurant, within the stadium, has sought to capitalise on supporter feedback to the travel survey which highlighted potential for an enhanced food and drink offer to further stagger visitor arrival and post-match exit profiles. 

Emphasising that change is a constant, the club is currently in the process of reacting to further changes to the surrounding highway network.  The A52 ‘Wyvern’ junction is being improved to add capacity for the regeneration of 70 acres of derelict land, prompting a review of matchday road closures to ensure they continue to function optimally.  All the while, promotion back into the Premier League – with which comes higher attendances, greater demand for matchday travel, and more complex live TV logistics requirements – remains a distinct possibility.

For more information about our transport stategy and traffic management capabilities please get in touch.


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