Supporters of some of the Premier League's biggest clubs are preparing to fight back against the growing influence of a website accused of "legalised touting" amid claims that clubs are encouraging the ripping-off of their fans.
Five clubs – Manchester City, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Fulham – have signed deals with the Swiss-based company Viagogo, making the ticket resale site the only place that can legally resell match seats, often for hugely inflated prices. Fans are critical of the sums involved in buying tickets through the website, whose policy varies between clubs.
Manchester City fans face charges up to 50 per cent higher, whereas there is no cap for Newcastle or Fulham fans. Chelsea tickets can be sold only for face value, though a pair of their most expensive £75 seats cost £180 with Viagogo due to "fees, handling and VAT".
Some City fans, who last season staged protests at the inflated price of tickets for games against top rivals, have started a petition calling for Viagogo to be "kicked out of Manchester City". A similar move by the German Bundesliga team Schalke 04 led to widespread demonstrations by thousands of fans, which resulted in the club ending the deal earlier this year.
Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters' Federation, recently branded secondary ticket agencies "legalised touts". He added: "We see no reason, if clubs have tickets available, why they cannot sell them in the normal way at face value." Fans at other affected clubs have also voiced concerns.
Steve Roest of Viagogo said: "Anyone wanting to buy or sell tickets for home games at these clubs can do so on Viagogo. We have worked closely with each club to determine what price cap should be set for ticket resale."