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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Season Tickets Hike at Rangers Sparks Outrage"

Season tickets hike at Rangers sparks outrage
Paul Jiggins, Evening Standard

Fans' group calls for an inquiry into rising ticket costs

Half of London's professional football clubs have chosen to raise the price of season tickets, a Standard Sport investigation reveals today.

The biggest hike is at Queens Park Rangers but directors at Dagenham & Redbridge, Fulham, Millwall, Tottenham, Watford and West Ham have also sanctioned increases.

The moves come despite calls from the Government and supporters' groups for clubs to address the soaring cost of watching football.

While Premier League neighbours Chelsea have frozen their season-ticket prices, QPR have chosen to increase their rates by as much as 36 per cent.

The cost of QPR's most expensive adult season ticket has rocketed from £513 to £699, while the cheapest seat has shot up from £405 to £450.

The change of pricing policy follows this year's takeover by Flavio Briatore and fellow Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, and the subsequent investment by Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. It has outraged many fans and some are pondering their football-supporting futures in W12.

Among them is salesman Mark Todd, 40, who has seen the season-ticket bill for himself and his young sons Lewis, eight, and Oliver, five, increase from £530 this season to £1,599.

Todd, from Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, told Standard Sport: "I have been a season-ticket holder in the South Africa Road stand upper tier for eight years.

"Last season I paid £460 for my ticket and £70 for Lewis's, while Oliver's was free as part of an FA initiative.

"But the club have decided to change the price structure for our part of the ground and call it the Platinum Area.

"That means if we want to continue sitting there, which we do, I'd have to fork out £699 for my ticket and £450 each for both of my boys.

"Rangers keep saying it's a 50 per cent increase, but in real terms to me it's a 200 per cent rise. I'm outraged and my boys are heartbroken. When I told them we wouldn't be able to get season tickets next year they both cried.

"How can you explain finances to eight and five-year-olds? My wife says we should just go ahead and pay the money but it's the principle of the thing. I'm disgusted with the way we've been treated."

But a QPR spokesman denied there had been a backlash from fans. He said: "Looking ahead to next season, it is the club's aim to achieve promotion to the Premier League, and as such, we have to generate further income to assist us in our pursuit of that goal.

"It is certainly not our intention to drive away loyal fans, but while the new owners have invested heavily in the squad as well as improving particular areas of Loftus Road stadium, the club itself must endeavour to run more cost-effectively."

Elsewhere in the capital, some crafty supporters are getting round the hike by sharing the cost of their yearly seat with a friend.

One Tottenham season-ticket holder, who asked not to be named, said: "My ticket has gone up from £708 to £775 and with the rising costs of my mortgage, petrol and food, the only way I can afford to renew is by going half each with my mate." Evening Standard

Evening Standard/Paul Jiggins 0 Fans' group calls for an inquiry into rising ticket costs

A leading fans' group today urged the Government to clamp down on the soaring cost of football season tickets.

The call comes as a Standard Sport investigation reveals that seven of London's 14 league clubs have raised prices for next season.

The increases, which are as high as 36 per cent at Queens Park Rangers, have outraged many supporters.

As a result, the national body which represents their interests want the Office of Fair Trading - the Government department for protecting consumers - to launch an investigation.

Steven Powell, director of policy and campaigns at the Football Supporters Federation, said: "There is no excuse at a time when the game is awash with money. I would be very happy to see an inquiry from the Office of Fair Trading into ticket pricing. It is about time this outrageous exploitation was stopped. It is an abuse of a dominant position in the market and not a necessity.

"In Germany, you can go and watch Schalke 04 - who were third in the Bundesliga - for 11 euros to stand and 15 euros for a seat. I am hacked off with our fans being treated as mugs by clubs. We have got two choices for our national game - either wake up in 10 years' time and ask why all the empty seats, or get a grip now."

Despite being bought by wealthy Formula One tycoons, Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, a QPR spokesman today defended their price rises saying: "We have to generate further income."

Research by the BBC published yesterday revealed the cost of Premier League season tickets has risen by 7.2 per cent, more than twice the rate of consumer price inflation. Standard

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