Football boss accused of exploitation

A vice-chairman of Leicester City Football Club was at the centre of a financial row yesterday as his team prepared to play in Europe for the first time in a generation. Steve Boggan examines the links between the vice-chairman and a travel company taking thousands of fans to the game.
Click to follow
Hundreds of Leicester City football fans have boycotted their team's official travel arrangements for tonight's game against Atletico Madrid amid claims that they are being exploited by the club.

Unrest among fans began to grow when Leicester City announced that it would cost pounds 279 to fly to the match, see the game and return home immediately afterwards. Most supporters wanted to spend the night but were told they couldn't - so when they heard that a rival company was offering the same deal with a stay in a four-star hotel for pounds 259 they were furious.

However, the real - and possibly lasting - damage was caused when it emerged that the club's vice-chairman, John Elsom, was also chairman and managing director of Page & Moy, the company that won the contract to act as the club's official tour operator.

Leicester City and Page & Moy insisted yesterday that no one was making a profit out of the deal, but many fans remained unconvinced. The rival travel company, David Dryer Sports Tours, has now attracted 520 fans for its pounds 259 package and says it expects to make a healthy profit.

"Much as we love Leicester City fans, we wouldn't take them there for nothing," said Greg Dryer, the owner's son. "But we can get them there, get them a ticket, arrange their transfers and put them up in a four-star hotel for pounds 259 and still make a profit. Frankly, we can't work out why it is so expensive to go with the club."

Mr Elsom was not available yesterday, but the club's chairman, Tom Smeaton, said a "small service charge" was made to cover administration: "Our normal practice is to get competitive tenders for everything and that was carried out in this case. The club has acted properly."

David Short, marketing director of Leicester-based Page & Moy, also said no profit was being made. "We are charging a fixed handling fee, but that is all," he said. He pointed out that his company went from the local airport, East Midlands, while David Dryer's flew from Stansted.

Fans had been told by the club that match tickets would not be available from Atletico Madrid, but Glenn Stewart, 41, one fan who made his own arrangements - and saved pounds 80 - found that this was not true. Atletico Madrid quoted a match ticket price of about pounds 23. Mr Stewart's flight cost pounds 168, making a total of pounds 191.