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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 10:27 GMT
Man Utd fans plan ticket protest
By Matt Slater

Christiano Ronaldo in action against Fulham at Old Trafford earlier this season
Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Fulham earlier this season
Manchester United fans are being asked by leaders of a campaign to cut prices at their away games not to buy anything inside Craven Cottage on Saturday.

United fans are being charged 45 by Fulham for their visit to London while Manchester City fans will pay only 25.

But the Old Trafford club's supporters, used to being "ripped off" by other teams, have decided enough is enough.

Protest organiser Pete Boyle said: "We are not picking on Fulham, it happens everywhere and we're fed up with it."

Boyle wants fans to refrain from buying food, drink, programmes or any other merchandise in the ground. The protest's objectives have been posted on Manchester United websites and leaflets will be distributed before kick-off.

"If a few thousand Reds don't buy a thing or place any bets maybe we can persuade Fulham to reduce their prices to a reasonable level next season," said Boyle, who attended his first United game in 1977.

The key point here is that rich football club does not equal rich football supporters

Malcolm Clarke
Football Supporters' Federation
"The team we support might be wealthy but it doesn't mean all Manchester United fans are.

"We have to pay inflated prices everywhere. If other clubs cannot fill their grounds with their own fans it's not down to us to balance their books."

Away tickets for this fixture cost 32 last season and 25 the season before.

Boyle, who was ejected from Birmingham City's St Andrews in 2004 for staging a similar protest, stressed that this would be a peaceful boycott.

He added that Fulham were no more guilty of "fleecing" United fans than many other clubs and pointed out that earlier this season Blackburn charged Bolton fans 15 - for a "proper local derby" - but United fans had to pay 36.

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Matt Slater
A spokesperson for Fulham told BBC Sport: "We set out our ticketing policy at the beginning of the season and made it clear that for Grade A+ matches tickets for home and away supporters in comparable sections of the ground will be 45 for adults, 30 for over-65s and 17-21s and 20 for under-17s."

Fulham's games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United fall into the Grade A+ category at Craven Cottage this season.

The Cottagers have sold 95.5% of their seats and averaged 21,604 fans a game at home fixtures this season; Manchester United average league-leading figures of 99.4% and 75,793.

The Fulham spokesperson added: "Away supporters at Craven Cottage are charged the lowest price band in the stadium. Fulham have complied with the (FA Premier League) rules concerning equality when charging home and away fans."

Craven Cottage
Fulham are not the only team to raise prices for the visits of Man Utd
But Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, was unimpressed with Fulham's explanation.

"Simply stating that the raised prices are because the match is a higher category game is not excusing the rise - it is just describing the crime," said Clarke.

"The key point here is that rich football club does not equal rich football supporters. The Manchester United fans feel very aggrieved about being repeatedly ripped off, and understandably so. They are hit with these prices every time."

The FSF, a national supporters' organisation of more than 130,000 fans from clubs at every level of the game, is campaigning for a universal away ticket price of 15 for all Premiership games with 10 for concessions.

"The new (media rights) money coming into the Premier League from next season is worth around 30 per admission over three seasons," he said. "They could afford to let fans in for nothing and still be as well off as they are today."

Clarke dismissed suggestions that extra policing or stewarding was the prime reason behind the category system.

It's not a hardship to go without food or drink for a couple of hours but it is a hardship to pay these outrageous prices at every away game

Man Utd fan Pete Boyle
"Fulham have not raised the prices for this game to cover their police costs. But if they are claiming that then they should tell us what that cost is," he said.

"In fact, the most common defence (for different price categories) we are given is that it transfers money from the rich clubs to the poor ones.

"If that is really the case then they should alter the way television money is distributed in the Premier League. They should spread the money out better, not punish supporters."

Boyle is uncertain how successful Saturday's protest will be but claims his conscience will be clearer for having tried to do something to tackle runaway prices.

"I expect some United fans will take advantage of the shorter queues at half-time to get a pie and a cup of tea but at least I will have tried," he said.

"We're just trying to make a point. It's not a hardship to go without food or drink for a couple of hours but it is a hardship to pay these outrageous prices at every away game."

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