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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
MPs defend free World Cup tickets
World Cup tickets
Fans say sponsors have been allocated too many tickets
MPs have defended taking free World Cup tickets from food giant McDonald's.

An official tournament sponsor, McDonalds said it had supplied 23 tickets to the MPs and researchers for England's game against Paraguay.

The move has sparked criticism from fans' groups, who say ordinary fans have been kept out of the stadium due to a lack of public tickets.

However, MPs said while they understood their frustration, it was not up to them who got the tickets.

Charity matches

Lib Dem MP John Leech - a member of the parliamentary football club - said the team was travelling to Germany to play two charity matches and they had paid all their own travel and accommodation expenses.

"We're giving money to charity as part of the trip and we play games to raise awareness of good causes, so it's very sad that it's turned around and twisted to suggest we're just getting a freebie," he said.

"I've been a season ticket holder for Manchester City for 22 years and I can safely say I'm a proper football fan.

"The tickets that have been provided for us would have been given out by McDonald's to somebody else, and I'm sure there's plenty of fans that would like to see the game as I would.

"I fully understand people's frustration, but it's not up to us who get the tickets."

They're doing it to buy themselves influence, let's make no mistake about it
Kevin Miles, Football Supporters' Federation

But Kevin Miles, international co-ordinator for the Football Supporters' Federation claimed McDonald's had handed over the tickets to curry favour with the MPs, and criticised the politicians for asking for them.

He also said the revelations reflected a "chronic" problem in which Fifa distributed 40% of World Cup tickets to sponsors, hospitality packages and non-competing football associations.

"They've got the tickets because they're MPs, but the biggest crime is that McDonald's is in the position to give them out," he said.

"They're doing it to buy themselves influence, let's make no mistake about it.

"The MPs have caught the headlines, and deservedly so, but it reflects an underlying problem of Fifa's ticket distribution policy and the disproportionate influence sponsors have."

The majority of tickets that we have had have been given to the fans

The Football Supporters' Federation is launching an international campaign to demand 'more tickets for fans, not sponsors'.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said the parliamentary football team had approached them for tickets and they had supplied 23 category one tickets, with a face value of 100 euro (68).

"The majority of tickets that we have had have been given to the fans. We recently ran a promotion so 746 pairs of tickets have gone directly to fans," she said.

She added: "We have invited the parliamentary football team to an informal meal at a local restaurant. I can't confirm how many will accept the invitation. That is not corporate hospitality. It is just a local restaurant."

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