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By DAVID HARRISON, 07/02/2009
M ANCHESTER UNITED fans are preparing a new dossier of complaints to the Office of Fair Trading over the club's controversial ticketing policy.

Supporters are furious that United charged them for the home leg of their Champions League game against Inter Milan almost EIGHT weeks before the match takes place.

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And another row has erupted over the allocation for the Carling Cup Final with some season ticket holders missing out — while United have made other tickets available for executive travel packages.

The controversial moves are part of the club's compulsory Automatic Cup Scheme which is already being investigated by the OFT.

An OFT spokesman confirmed last night that their inquiries were continuing and added: “We are happy to receive complaints and any further representations from fans or other interested parties.â€

Under the ACS scheme, United season ticket holders are compelled to buy tickets for cup games — though there was agreement this season they could opt out of buying Carling Cup tickets.

SEASON RICKET - fans are angry at the pricing policy for United season tickets

Fans are outraged that the club took money for tickets costing up to £50 from their bank accounts and credit cards for the Inter game.

United have 57,000 season ticket holders — which means they will have grabbed around £2.5million in advance sales.

One United fan claimed his account was debited on January 20 — 50 days before the match against Inter at Old Trafford on March 11.

The fan said: “United did not tell us when they were charging us for cup tickets. The club is guaranteed to get the money anyway so why do they have to take it from us so early? It has come at a time when some fans are being badly affected by the credit crunch. It is unfair and needs to be highlighted by the OFT. This is probably our best chance of getting rid of the ACS and getting some choice back when it comes to purchasing match tickets.

RED STARS - United supporters are angry at the prices for watching their beloved team

“If the complaint falls flat on its face then it says that United can do what they like to us and get away with it.â€

Some supporters did not have sufficient funds in their accounts and fear they could miss out on their ticket for the game.

Others have pointed out they did not automatically get tickets for the Arsenal FA Cup and Barcelona Champions League games last season. Many regulars missed out when the tickets went into a ballot and others who got them found they had been moved from their regular places.

The ticket allocation for the Carling Cup Final clash against Spurs at Wembley on March 1 has caused a further outcry.

Even those season tickets holders who had opted IN for the Carling Cup games found they were not guaranteed a ticket.
Exploited

Thousands were unlucky in a ballot — only to find that tickets have been made available elsewhere as part of an official £159 travel package.

One enraged United fan said: “It's a scandal. There is no point in being in the ACS. I only opted in for the chance to get a ticket for the Carling Cup Final. How can they justify selling tickets on travel packages when season ticket holders in the ACS aren't getting one?â€

Another fan added: “I'm shaking with anger. This is yet another blow to season ticket holders already feeling exploited.â€

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) are appealing to any fans who feel they have been badly treated to submit evidence. It will then be forwarded to the OFT.

A spokesman said: “These are clear examples of United being able to take advantage of the supporters because of the existence of the ACS and it begs the question why are they so desperate to get their hands on our cash?
Pressure

“We are compiling further evidence before making submissions to the OFT.†In December, Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd chaired a meeting at the House of Commons to discuss earlier complaints filed to the OFT by MUST.

Lawyers representing MUST delivered a document registering “three complaints in the way United's ticketing policy has breached both their statutory and legal obligations. It is our contention that the club has acted unlawfully.â€

Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has already spoken of his concerns about ticket prices. And MUST now suspect that the ticket policy is a further sign United are under financial pressure.

Ailing insurance giant AIG has already announced it is ending its £19m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with United. Fans fear there will be another hike in season ticket prices of up to 20 per cent for next season.

But a United spokesman denied that the club are being unduly affected by the economic downturn and added: “The fans are being debited for the Inter Milan game in accordance with the terms and conditions of their season ticket agreements.â€

The United spokesman revealed only 200 tickets out of an allocation of over 31,000 for the Carling Cup Final were made available for travel packages.

He added: “This is part of a contractual agreement we have with Co-op Travel and has been in place for the last 10 years"
 

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The £31 for my ticket v Inter was debited from my credit card on the 19th of January, over seven weeks before the game.

Multiply that by 60,000 ST holders, with an average of £35 each for a month longer than necessary, and even at todays ***** interest rates it adds up to a lot of money.
 
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