Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wayne Rooney for Manchester United (v AC MIlan), 24 April 2007

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...


Mosher said...

Contractually obliged as I am to hate Man U (Toon fan), I can't help but agree with everything you've said. If it's any support, NUFC are just as abysmal when it comes to replying to fans' letters as are Boro.

I've emailed and snail-mailed both in the past relating to their policies on standing, smoking in the stands, racist abuse (hurled by my own fans), help with charity events... and never once had even a cursory response. Bear in mind that Newcastle were still trying to shift "half-season" tickets in January so they don't even have the excuse of an excess demand any more.

In March last year I left the UK to go traveling. I've been gone 16 months now, caught maybe 6 matches on TV in a year and - frankly - don't miss the live stuff at all. Over the last few seasons I felt more like a cash cow and less like a supporter. I still love my club, I still have the tattoo and I still want them to win everything under the sun.

But I'd rather go and watch Gateshead play live.

Clare said...

As a Rovers fan I think we are very lucky (although you may disagree!). This year my season ticket has gone down to £300 and match day tickets have gone down to £15-£20.
We also have a chief exec who is quite happy to meet with any fan over any issues about Rovers. He's even on one occasion arranged for a member of the Walker Trust to fly over from Jersey to meet with a fan!

With regards to Man U, I think the cup ticket scheme is rediculous! I know quite a few people who have given up their season tickets because of it. Also, I'm a bit sceptical as to their claims of '14,000' people on the waiting list beacuse as far as I am aware didn't the waiting list go last season? My mate got a letter from Man U asking him to buy a season ticket....if they still had a waiting list why would they be sending out letters such as these?

I would also suggest contacting IMUSA as they will probably be having some action against this rule too.

weenie said...

The richest club in the world wants to stay that way and in order to do so, they must rip off fans. Madness.

LB said...

Mosher - thanks for your comment. The brilliant thing is that I got a holding letter saying "under the terms of the Club Charter you'll receive a reply within 14 days". What b*llocks.

Your last point is great - I have had much more fun watching FC United (for £7 a ticket, standing, eating decent pies) than I have in recent years at Old Trafford.

Clare - hello and thanks for commenting! Rovers is a place I really like to go (my ex-in-laws were Rovers fans and so I went to Ewood a fair bit). Of all the "big" clubs I have ever been to, that place has by a country mile the most family feel.

I'm dubious about this season ticket thing also as they basically sent out an open invitation last year to members to take up a season ticket. But with all these things it's take literally thousands to hand their tickets back before they'd even bat an eyelid.

Weenie - the irony is that 76,000 or so of us don't give a flying toss whether we're the richest club in the world or not. Our most popular player (Solksjaer)over the last 10 years didn't cost tens of millions of pounds, he cost £1.5million. The cost of players doesn't excite the fans, the cost of burgers incenses them. Considering the money United receive from their merchandising, sponsorship and TV, fleecing punters for cup seats is as petty as it is incendiary.