Punters losing interest in Kenyon's 'one-horse race'

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The Independent Football

The Premier League were adopting a "wait and see" approach to the news, which comes in the wake of disappointing crowds at Sunderland, Manchester United, Aston Villa and Blackburn, plus Newcastle's first struggle to sell season tickets in years.

League officials consider it too soon to judge whether empty seats in Premiership stadiums will become a common sight, but the chairman of the Football Supporters' Association issued a stark warning.

Malcolm Clarke directly correlates the slow sales with Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon's pre-season claim that "the winner of the title will come from a small bunch of one".

The cheapest seats on sale at Chelsea today were £48, with others available at £60. "I think there are a number of signs now that the bubble in the Premiership is beginning to burst," said Clarke.

"At the weekend, Manchester United had tickets on general sale for the first time in many years. And when you look at the prices at Chelsea, their situation is not surprising.

"When Peter Kenyon says it's a one-horse race, he should realise that what follows is hardly surprising. How many racehorse punters want to go and watch a one-horse race. Maybe Mr Kenyon should be asked why fans should pay £48 to watch a one-horse race."

Chelsea took out a newspaper advert, publicising the fact tickets were available for Albion's visit. While sales continued today, the box office predicted they would be open tomorrow from 9am with seats likely to be available.

"We had Newcastle advertising season tickets on local radio this summer, which was unheard of a few years ago," Clarke added. "A lot of people renewed because they thought they couldn't run the risk of not getting into games. Now they've realised there are match tickets on sale. Prices at the top level in British football are the dearest in Europe by some margin and have risen way beyond the level of inflation since the Premiership was formed.

"Lord Justice Taylor, in his Hillsborough report, said a reasonable price for seats at a Premiership game would be £6. That was 15 years ago and if you put the inflation multiplier on that it comes out as £11-something.

"Manchester City didn't sell out their allocation at Birmingham the other day. Most Manchester City fans think there's no chance of winning anything this season after selling Shaun Wright-Phillips, so why spend a lot of money?"

Arsenal versus Fulham tonight is a sell-out, but tickets were still available for Bolton's home match against Newcastle, and Blackburn were fearing another low crowd for the visit of Tottenham. Blackburn, as they regularly do, also advertised the match locally, with ticket prices ranging from £15 to £32.

Blackburn had no such problems during the mid-Nineties, but just 16,953 showed for Saturday's match with Fulham, leaving the 31,367-capacity stadium half-full. "I hate to say we told you so but we did tell them so," said Clarke.

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