Manchester United is being investigated by Britain's competition watchdog after fans of the English champions complained about a sharp rise in ticket prices and that season ticketholders were being forced to buy tickets for matches they did not want to see.
Representatives from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) met with officials from the Office of Fair Trading on Wednesday and were told an investigation had begun into its claims that the club's pricing policy violates competition law.
"It's an abuse of their dominant market position," MUST chief executive Duncan Drasdo said Thursday.
MUST has received 35,000 complaints from fans about United's requirement that season ticket holders purchase additional tickets for non-Premier League matches, including the FA Cup and Champions League. They also complained about ticket price rises, with the cost of some season tickets rising by as much as 60 per cent since the 2004-05 season.
Before the compulsory cup ticket plan was introduced in 2007, season tickets were only for league matches. The club responded to fans' anger by exempting League Cup matches from 2008-09 season ticket packages.
"We're delighted that the OFT have chosen to launch an investigation into this matter," Drasdo said. "We're confident that the level of political support we're gathering will ensure that the Fair Deal for Fans campaign now goes beyond United and beyond our compulsory Cup ticket scheme.
"Huge ticket prices and the systematic exploitation of loyal supporters affect many fans at clubs throughout all the divisions."
In a dossier sent to the OFT last month, MUST claimed that a season ticket that cost 532 pounds ($795) in 2004-5 is now priced at 912 pounds ($1,364) -- before cup matches are factored in.
"The automatic cup scheme seems a pretty clear-cut case of unfair practices, and we were glad to learn that the OFT will be looking into it," said lawmaker Alan Keen MP, who is chairman of the All-Party Football Group. "But now it's up to politicians to use the various tools at our disposal to broaden this campaign and get a fair deal for all fans."