ANGRY Latics fans are in dispute with a coach firm which took them to the club’s first-ever match in Europe.
Around 150 supporters who booked with Wigan tour operator Shearings to travel to Belgium to watch the tie against Zulte Waregem were left unhappy and frustrated after their time on the continent was cut short due to missing the ferry.
They say the company set itself an impossible schedule after putting back the Wigan departure from 1am to 3.30am. This meant they hit London during the rush hour and that three of a convoy of six coaches, some of which had been subcontracted to a Yorkshire company, missed the scheduled Channel ferry so fans had less than an hour to enjoy the sights of historic Bruges which hosted the match.
While apologising for the delays and promising to write to supporters, Shearings has also defended its schedule, saying fans still had a chance to visit the medieval city as promised when booking. But Latics fans have expressed disappointment at the missing out on the city centre festivities enjoyed by most of the other 2,500 travelling supporters.
Eddie Canning, from Pemberton, said: “It was a fiasco. The reason we missed the ferry was because the departure time was set back. When they advertise something with five hours in Bruges that’s what you expect, but by the time we had walked from the car park we had hardly any time in the town centre.”
Another fan said: “There was no reason for Shearings to have such a tight schedule, and the fans on the three coaches which missed the ferry did not get to experience all the fun in the town square.”
With the drivers having to take mandatory breaks en route, the coaches did not arrive at Dover until 10 minutes before the sailing, leaving insufficient time to board. Shearings initially blamed customs officers on having to take the next ferry but have now promised to write to customers affected after discussions with Wigan Athletic.
A Shearings spokesman said: “We have investigated those concerns raised by passengers affected and spoken at length to our team. Despite delays to three of the six coaches, all customers had the opportunity to spend some time in the city before being transferred to the ground for the match.
“We appreciate that delays to three of the six coaches meant those fans had less time in central Bruges than originally envisaged and we apologise for the frustration this inevitably caused. “