Simon Calder: Twickers world - how sport events distort travel

The man who pays his way

A miserable weekend awaits tens of thousands of travellers. A gloomy prediction, reflecting the inevitability that on Sunday many people will head home after two or three expensive and disappointing days away.

Until tonight, no one knows exactly who they will be, but you can easily narrow the field. Many will be supporters of either Leinster or Ulster rugby teams – depending on which of the Irish sides lose today's Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham. Today is also the climax of Europe's club football season, the Champions League Final. The bookies' odds suggest a cloud of despond will accompany followers of Chelsea back from the game in Munich. Even if you would only travel to Twickenham to see Sir Horace Walpole's theatrical Gothic castle of Strawberry Hill, or to Bavaria for its absurd sibling, Neuschwanstein, what happens on the pitch can still affect you.

The dreams of many supporters are routinely shattered at the end of each season. Defeat is bad enough, but for fans whose teams end up losing in some corner of a foreign playing field, the experience – and expense – is magnified. Today, Chelsea take on Bayern Munich in a venue that was chosen long before the competition began. Many of the lucky Bavarian fans can walk to the ground – not an option for supporters of their opponents, who have caused a surge in demand for travel between London and Munich.

Some easyJet flights have risen to more than £900 return. On Sunday, BA has no space on flights from Munich to Heathrow. Beds in Munich are easier to find, partly because it is a home game for Bayern, but also because Bavarian farmers have plenty of practice in running pop-up campsites each autumn for Oktoberfest and can open up their pastures early to Chelsea campers.

Ireland's rugby union fans face much higher prices for finding a room in south-west London. When I made a test booking for tonight at the Premier Inn that adjoins the rugby stadium, I was offered a rate of £149 – but for somewhere way beyond Twickers' world. It applied for a sister hotel nine miles away, at the Hanger Lane Gyratory System. (The property's address, 1-6 Ritz Parade, is as close as you will get to five-star luxe.)

Shameless profiteering? No, just market forces efficiently allocating a scarce resource. Nobody is being forced to attend: fans are willingly paying £320 for a one-way Aer Lingus flight from Heathrow to Dublin on Sunday.

Higher prices also help to expand capacity, enabling more people to travel and sleep. While capacity on a route is normally fixed in the short term, fare increases can persuade airlines to shuffle their fleets and find a few more seats, to the benefit of fans. Ryanair has put on extra flights from Stansted to "Munich West," the pretty town of Memmingen at the western extreme of Bavaria, for £350 return.

How to avoid the final countdown

Normal people, as opposed to travelling sports supporters, may already have hatched a plan to save Irish rugby fans trailing to Twickers and ease the journey for Chelsea supporters. If the sports' governing bodies could only wait until the finalists are known each season, a neutral ground convenient for both sets of fans can be chosen.

Apply this cunning plan to the Heineken Cup, and the obvious ground for today's final is Hamilton Park – home of Sligo RFC, in the neutral Irish province of Connacht. And exactly halfway between Stamford Bridge in London and the Allianz Arena in Munich stands the Stade Josy Barthel in Luxembourg, 350 miles from both.

Yet while Twickenham has a capacity of 82,000, the Sligo resident I spoke to said Hamilton Park could squeeze in "Maybe 1,000 people". And Luxem-bourg's answer to Wembley runs out of seats at the 8,054 mark.

In addition, the right to host a big final is hotly contested and assigned well in advance: 18 May 2013 will be a good day to avoid Dublin unless you are attending the Heineken Cup Final, while Wembley hosts the Champions League decider a week later.

Cup finals create opportunities for non-sporting travellers. Suppose Barcelona meet AC Milan in next year's Champions League Final. Demand for inbound flights to London immediately before, and home afterwards, will soar. But flights in the reverse direction will be half-empty, as will hotels in the contesting cities because normal business tends to ebb away for a big match. Just don't call up Room Service while the final is taking place.

Yes, but what cash will I spend?

Never mind a hypothetical trip next year – how should you organise your holiday finances this summer? My guide at independent.co.uk/eurocash may help. Good luck, everybody.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power