You may have seen snippets of this story over the last few weeks.
Manchester United have implemented a new ticketing policy which makes it compulsory for season ticket holders to join the club's "automatic cup ticket scheme". This means that season tickets for the forthcoming 2007/8 season won't be released by the club to supporters until they agree to sign-up for the scheme. What the scheme does is automatically debit your credit or debit card with the payment and issue any home cup tickets during the season (Carling Cup, FA Cup and the Champions League).
So, despite a 14% hike in season ticket prices (compared with those clubs who under the new TV deal have reduced or frozen prices), United fans are now forced to shell out up to an additional £380 a season. (Interestingly, the news of the season ticket price increase was released the morning after United had beaten AC Milan 3-2 in the Champions League semi-final. Some Blairite tactics if ever I've seen them.)
The clubs defence of this policy is unsurprisingly arrogant. They argue that there is a waiting list of 14,000 for season tickets (which to me reads "take it or leave it".) They also argue that unwanted tickets can be sold on the Manchester United Ticket Exchange (true, but the fees payable for selling through the exchange add 20-25% to the face value of the ticket).
I wrote to David Gill just under a fortnight ago complaining about this ludicrous policy as often, due to work commitments I can't attend midweek fixtures. I also consider that the price of my season ticket rising from £475 in 2005/6 to £722 in 2007/8 is a steep enough increase without the additional cost of cup tickets (knockout stage Champions League tickets for example are more expensive than an equivalent league game). As yet, I have had no response.
Yesterday, I read that with the support of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) a supporter is taking the club to court over this policy. I am absolutely delighted that this is the case and I immediately emailed Nick Towle, chairman of MUST to offer my support. I understand from his response today that a class action is expensive although he expects further individual court cases to follow. He has added my name to a growing list of over 100 supporters who are prepared to challenge this policy in the courts.
United know full well that they have their loyal support over a barrel. If anyone fails to renew their season ticket in disgust at their increasing greed and arrogance, there are 14,000 waiting to take it off them. If I knew that I could send my season ticket back and tell them to stick it and then at some point in the future decide to renew, I'd do it. But I can't. So I am either be forced to accept whatever daft, unfair policy they introduce at any given moment, or kiss goodbye to watching them again for good.
I'm not surprised that long-time fans across the Premiership are turning their backs on their teams in favour of returning to grass-roots lower league football where you're treated like a supporter and not like a revenue stream. United might generate a stadium full of rich glory hunters now, but when the bubble bursts it's us they'll expect to fall back on...