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Manchester United consider a charge to apply for away tickets

Fri 23rd Apr 2010 | Money & Finance

Manchester United are reportedly considering charging fans for the right to apply for away tickets in a move that could make the club £1m and has led one supporters' group to question whether it is a "cynical" move by the Glazer family to recoup the lost revenue from freezing season-ticket prices.

An article in The Guardian suggests that the club are discussing establishing a Premier League travel club in which supporters might have to pay a "nominal" joining fee, the initial figure under consideration being £20, if they want to follow Sir Alex Ferguson's team on the road.

The Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association estimate that more than 50,000 people would join such a scheme. If, as mooted, a charge is introduced, that would potentially make the club a seven-figure sum.

"Supporters would be paying £20 for what would feel like a one-in-50,000 chance of getting a ticket," the IMUSA spokesman, Mark Longden, said. "It's yet another cost for the supporters. You have to be cynical when the Glazer family are concerned and this seems to be a nice way of getting their money back from the season tickets."

United say that nothing has been finalised and that they will listen to the club's official fans' forum before making any decision. The 15-member forum will discuss the idea at a meeting tomorrow involving the chief executive, David Gill, the chief operating officer, Michael Bolingbroke, and the director of venue, Karl Evans.

England's best-supported club currently operate a loyalty-pot scheme for away games but are considering abandoning that policy, despite it forming part of the official Old Trafford charter.

The fans' forum has always opposed any change and United have gone along with that recommendation, but on this occasion some supporters, as well as club officials, have raised concerns that the loyalty pot is a "closed shop", with younger fans unable to break into it, and there is a feeling that the introduction of ID cards would alleviate the issue of persistent standing at away matches.

Several clubs, including Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City, have cut the size of United's away allocation because of this problem. Sunderland are the latest, issuing only 1,700 tickets for the game at the Stadium of Light on 2 May. The Wearside club have explained their refusal to offer the recommended entitlement of 3,000 on United's followers being identified for "causing a significant safety risk".

United suspended the loyalty pot for a match at Bolton in 2006 to try to stop the fans from standing but it had little effect."There is an argument that they want to sanitise our away support," Longden said. "There is a lot of disillusionment among those in the loyalty pot as I think most people would recognise that loyalty should be recognised."

IMUSA used to be guaranteed a place on the fans' forum, alongside the Manchester United Supporters' Trust in its previous guise as Shareholders United, but that privilege was taken away after the Glazers bought the club in 2005.

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