SOCCER SPECIALS PROBE URGED
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SOCCER specials need supervision and stewards — something not at present provided by licensed coach operators — the North Western Traffic Commissioners were told by Manchester United Supporters Club chairman Mr C. D. Smith.
Mr Smith, who said that supervision had been said by a Government working party to be in the public interest, was applying last week for a road service licence to run coaches to away matches of Manchester United.
In March, the Commissioners reserved decision on an application by National Travel (North West) Ltd to run on behalf of the club. A number of other applications by Manchester operators for similar licences were adjourned, but dispensation was granted to all operators concerned for operation until the end of the 1975/76 season.
The club application was opposed by all the licensed operators of football excursions. The Traffic Commissioners decided to hear it as they wished to explore the various methods open to operators in combating hooliganism.
Mr Smith, in evidence, said many licensed operators were reluctant to run because of past vandalism.
The club, by providing supervision had virtually eliminated trouble, and in 1975/76 decided to use road transport only. Coaches had been proNided by National Travel on a private hire basis, but complaints had been made about advertising in the club match programmes.
Comments made during National Travel's application decided the club to apply for its own licence.
The club would liaise with the police, those running motorway service areas and the DoE.
Cross-examined, Mr Smith said the club was a voluntary organisation with no staff. The committee would hold the licence but the Travel Club, of which he was the proprietor, would act as agent for the hiring of coaches. He agreed that he depended on the Travel Club for his livelihood.
Questioned by Mr J. A. Backhouse, for the objectors, Mr Smith said a condition that coaches should be hired only from named licence holders would not be acceptable. The fares would be 10 to 15 per cent lower than the licensed football excursions fares because of the need to encourage travel by supervised transport.
Objectors said that if a licence were granted, allowing the supporters club to fix its own fares, the business of established operators of football excursions could disappear overnight. In order to implement the recommendations of the working party licensed coach operators could have appropriate conditions attached to their licences.
The hearing was adjourned until next Thursday.