Man Utd fans face 14% hike in ticket cost

SUPPORTERS OF Manchester United, the country's biggest football club, were told yesterday that they will have to pay for the players' wage demands through more expensive tickets.

The club's fans reacted with anger to the news that ticket prices would rise by up to 14 per cent next season.

The increase in prices will come into force from August when tickets will go up by pounds 2. The cheapest seat for the club's Old Trafford ground will cost pounds 16 and the most expensive pounds 22. Season tickets will now cost between pounds 304 and pounds 418.

The club revealed yesterday that signing expensive new stars and a rising players' wage bill had pulled down its half-year profits from pounds 15.4m to pounds 11.1m.

Alex Ferguson, the United manager, spent heavily last summer in an attempt to beef up his squad before mounting a renewed assault on the Premier League title and the European Champions League. Top players were brought in at a total cost of more than pounds 28m.

The new stars' wage demands, combined with new contracts for established players such as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, pushed up United's wage bill by pounds 3m in the six months to the end of January. The figure includes pounds 750,000 of player bonuses for reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

United is also pressing ahead with a pounds 30m project to add 12,400 seats to its stadium, taking the capacity to 67,400.

David Gill, United's finance director, defended the increases: "If you look at the Premier League, we are currently ranked 15th out of 20 clubs in terms of ticket prices. These rises lift us to ninth, but that is before the others push through their own increases."

However, the price rises provoked outrage from United fans. Lee Hodgkiss, a spokesman for the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, said: "The traditional supporters are now being priced out of the game. The club are acting cynically. It is a disgrace."