£4,500 for football fan to follow Wales through Euro 2016

Kieran Jones

For many football fans, the idea of Wales making it to the quarter finals of the European Championships was nothing more than a dream.

Chris Coleman's team has exceeded most supporters' expectations at Euro 2016 and they now face Belgium in Lille on Friday.

But what is the cost for a fan following the team's extended stay in France?

BBC Wales spoke to one man who has spent £4,500 and driven 3,500 miles (5,700km) to do just that.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world," said Kieran Jones, a 51-year-old Cardiff City and Wales fan.

Mr Jones travelled to France on 8 June, before the tournament kicked off, after buying a caravan for the trip for £2,000.

"I bought it to save a little bit on the hotel prices," the IT consultant, of Cardiff, said.

'It's been tiring'

He started his journey by driving to Paris, where he stayed for two nights before heading down to Toulouse, where he was based for Wales' 2-1 group B win against Slovakia in Bordeaux.

Mr Jones then drove back up to northern France for the 2-1 defeat to England in Lens, down again for the 3-0 win against Russia in Toulouse, back up north again for the 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in Paris, and is now staying in Roubaix, near Lille, for the quarter final.

He has spent £450 on campsites, £400 on his match tickets voucher and £375 on road tolls.

"I've got to keep on the main roads because of the caravan, I can't go on the side lanes," he said.

"I like driving but it has been hard work. It's been tiring."

He added: "I've done 5,700km. If Wales win [against Belgium] it'll be a couple more miles to go on there."

Mr Jones has also been helping the Football Supporters' Federation run the fan embassies in France, which involve early starts and long days.

He had feared he would not make the tournament as he needed emergency surgery on a burst blood vessel five weeks before Euro 2016.

"It's been hard," he said. "But I'm on a lot of medication.

Image caption Kieran Jones with his sons outside the caravan he bought for the tournament

"I've had to check with the French authorities to see what medicine I could have over here, to see what medications are allowed here."

But despite the difficulties his illness has posed, Mr Jones said he could not have stayed at home.

"It could be once in a lifetime. It's the first time it's happened in our life time, it could be the last, we don't know," he added.

And while a month away from work in the popular summer months might pose a problem for some Wales fans, Mr Jones said his employer, Sport Wales, had been very "understanding".

For many the idea of an indefinite amount of time away from family could also be tough.

But Mr Jones, a father of two, said he felt he "had to come" because his wife, Marina, who died three years ago, had also been a passionate supporter.

"We were big Welsh fans. We'd been to a lot of away games. She would have been here," he said.

For Friday's game against Belgium at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, about 20,000 Wales fans are expected in Lille alongside more than 100,000 Belgians.

But Mr Jones, who also followed Wales during every qualifier besides Israel, believes Welsh supporters will not be lost in a sea of Belgian shirts.

"We are going to be outnumbered but we'll out sing them," he said.

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