Fans cry foul as United cash in

TOM STEVENSON

and JOHN McKIE

Manchester United fans, already upset by the transfers over the summer of some of their star players, were dealt another blow yesterday when the club unveiled soaring revenue from its widely criticised merchandising operation.

United recorded sales of pounds 23.5m from kit, videos and other gear emblazoned with their colours in the year to July, up from pounds 14.2m in 1994. Five years ago the club sold just pounds 2m from merchandising. The increased revenue from these sales helped the publicly quoted company that owns the club to double its profits from pounds 10.8m last year to pounds 20m.

Football clubs have come under fire for the money they make selling team strips, which change every couple of years. Critics say clubs prey on fashion-conscious children and their hapless parents. Manchester United have three different designs to tempt youngsters, covering home and away matches.

This summer saw a 13 per cent increase in ticket prices and the sale of three of the club's stars, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis.

Andy Walsh, secretary of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, said yesterday: "It's a scandal. They promised us there was going to be a freeze on prices for two years. They're pricing the ordinary fan out the market. Last year, to follow them home and away, cost pounds 3,000. To take my son to two home games and an away game in Sheffield cost more than pounds 100."

The association's vice-chairman, Johnny Flacks, added: "In the past five years, there's been a 300 per cent increase in prices. Manchester United used to pride themselves on being one of the cheapest clubs in the country but now they're one of the most expensive outside London."

The growth in profits came despite a traumatic 1994-95 season for the club in which it failed to win a major competition, finishing as runner- up in both the Premiership and FA Cup.

All clubs now supplement gate receipts with advertising and merchandising activities. None, however, makes as much as Manchester United.

Martin Edwards, chief executive, defended the soaring revenues yesterday, pointing out that the biggest-selling shirt size last year had been extra large. Football kit was anyway extremely hard-wearing and so good value, he suggested, and he defended the decision to produce the variety of kit. He said the club was adopting an "energetic" merchandising approach. "We have three kits in progression, a first, a second and a third strip and they all have a two-year cycle, and so there's a new kit each year."

Mr Edwards attempted to reassure fans: "We won't be having a new kit for the rest of this season."

Merchandising overtook gate receipts and programme sales last year as Manchester United's biggest revenue earner and it now represents almost 40 per cent of the club's sales.

Following United's double-winning run in the 1993-94 season, gate receipts also increased, up a tenth to pounds 19.6m. Turnstile takings were boosted by an inflation-beating 13 per cent ticket price rise which had been repeated this season.

Mr Edwards said the planned increase of Old Trafford's capacity to 55,000 by the end of the season, up from 44,000, might mean a slowdown in ticket price increases. The North stand at United's ground is currently being rebuilt at a cost of pounds 19m. Elsewhere, increased revenues from television fees, sponsorship and royalties and conference and catering income, combined with a jump in net transfer fees, helped double the profits.

Investment column, page 22

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape