Famed soccer (football) club Manchester United is under fire after allegations that its staff has been withholding available tickets from fans that hold paid memberships with the club, in favor of using them to hook new paid members. Fans reacted with outrage when the alleged scheme was reported by the Daily Mail in the UK, with fan clubs calling for an official review of the process.
Allegedly, staff members were told to ask whether individuals calling to purchase tickets were members or not before disclosing whether or not there were any available. If they were not, tickets were said to be available if they purchased a membership, which costs £32 (just over $40). If they were members – which the website promises grants people “exclusive access to home match tickets” – they were told no tickets were available for the game in question.
“Until further notice, any available tickets can only be sold to supporters who are purchasing a new membership, in order to create and drive further membership sales,” reads an email allegedly sent to club staff on June 15, published Wednesday by DailyMail.co.uk. “When speaking to supporters you MUST first establish if they are a member before discussing ticket availability.”
“If the supporter is an existing official member then you must advise them that we have currently sold out of tickets and advise them to register their interest online. If the supporter doesn’t have a membership you can sell them a membership on the call and sell them an available ticket. It is important that you follow this process and that you are only selling tickets to new members.’
Staff speaking to the Mail anonymously said they were forced to push the memberships for access to tickets, despite the fact that a small number are ever available, making a membership a cash cow for the club with limited real benefit for the fans, particularly if the allegations are true.
The club’s supporters trust spoke out against the allegations in the wake of the story, calling on the club and its owners “to immediately review this policy and to not abuse the loyalty of time-served suppoerters who have already made a considerable financial investment in the membership scheme.”
“No supporter who has previously paid to be a Manchester United member should be placed behind a supporter who has not previously purchased a club membership,” continued Sean Bones, spokesman for the MU Supporters’ Trust in The Daily Mail. “At Manchester United, loyalty should count for everything and should not be sacrificed in the pursuit of greed.”
According to The Daily Mail, the UK’s Competition and Market’s Authority is considering investigating the report for any illegal actions taken by the team.