A number of Manchester United fans have alleged the club is threatening to suspend their season ticket for March’s derby with Manchester City… unless they buy tickets for the club’s Champions League home tie with Olympiacos.
Supporters took to Twitter to post screenshots of emails they had received from the club’s Ticketing Operations Manager headlined "Olympiacos FC payment deadline".
The message reads: "The deadline to buy your ticket for Olympiacos is 8pm Wed 26 Feb. Please note that not buying this ticket will result in your Season Ticket being suspended for the Man City game."
Manchester United do this via the Automatic Cup Scheme (ACS) which has a controversial history and once again finds itself in the spotlight.
Under the T&Cs of the ACS fans purchasing a season ticket must also agree to buy tickets for any home FA Cup and Champions League games. Fans can opt out of the League Cup but this may harm applications for away tickets and cup finals.
It appears fans have missed payments or cancelled direct debits/credit cards which means funds cannot be taken. This seems to be the club's attempt to secure payment.
Axe the ACS
Only last week it emerged that the club planned to charge “Champions League prices for Europa League seats” and include those sales in the ACS.
The Independent described the ACS as “one of the most resented features of the commercial regime under the ownership of the Glazer family”.
Back in 2008 the FSF-affiliated Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association said it was considering taking legal action against the scheme.
In April 2009 Manchester United changed the T&Cs of its season tickets following a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) by FSF affiliates the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST).
As part of this the club agreed to “a clearer appeal process… to deal with disputes over cancellation of season tickets because of non-payment for cup matches” and a “pro-rata refund of the money they have already paid to the club”.
While there’s no suggestion the club are acting illegally fans have certainly questioned whether these schemes are fair. The OFT's recommendations must be followed too.
Supporters who want a season ticket at Old Trafford now need a crystal ball to know exactly how much it’s going to cost them over the season – how on earth do you budget for that?
The FSF contacted Manchester United for clarification and comment but the club have not yet responded.
- MUST are surveying fans on the ACS - have your say here.
Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this article.