Having won its group in the Champions League this season, Manchester United meet Sevilla in the last 16 stage of the Champions League. This round will be made up of two legs: the first match will be played at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium whilst the return leg will be played at Old Trafford. However, we need not wait until 21 February to see these two clubs clash, after Sevilla incited a war off the pitch by increasing the ticket prices for travelling Manchester United fans to £89.
Manchester United fans responded with frustration and anger at the increased ticket prices. By comparison, Liverpool fans, who travelled to Sevilla during the Champions League group stage in November, were only charged £54 per ticket.
Manchester United has made attempts to negotiate with Sevilla, stating “this has been raised with Sevilla, and internally, but ultimately Sevilla have not agreed to significantly lower the price of tickets for our fans to what we view as a reasonable level”. The club further responded that it will not only subsidise each ticket by £35 (so a travelling Manchester United fan will pay the same as a travelling Liverpool fan did), but travelling Sevilla fans will also be charged £89 for tickets for the return leg at Old Trafford. United has only allocated 2,995 tickets to visiting fans for this match.
In response, Sevilla insisted that the club would also subsidise its travelling fans and it would contact UEFA over this dispute: “Sevilla will be in contact with UEFA over both Manchester United’s failure to make five per cent of tickets available to away fans, as well as the club’s price increase after a formal application for an away allocation”.
Sevilla’s complaint rests partially on Article 37.01 of UEFA’s Champions League Regulations 2017/2018, which requires home clubs to allocate at least 5% of its stadium’s capacity to visiting supporters “in a segregated, safe area”. Sevilla contend that 5% of Old Trafford’s capacity should equate to an allocation of 3,800 tickets to its fans.
Going further, Article 19(3) of the UEFA Safety and Securities Regulations (2006 edition) states that:
“Unless the associations or clubs concerned agree otherwise, the price of tickets for supporters of the visiting team must not exceed the price paid for tickets of a comparable category that are sold to supporters of the home team”
Whilst it is not clear what prices the home fans are charged at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, United fans claim they are constantly charged excessive and disproportionate prices. They argue that they are charged the equivalent to the highest rates for home fans; these are often highly priced tickets available for ‘non-members’. This is how clubs can navigate their ticket prices in alignment with Article 19 of the UEFA Safety and Securities Regulations, as away fans are not technically being charged more than the price of a home ticket, despite the fact that these tickets are not particularly popular or in demand.
It is a pressing issue that UEFA may move swiftly to address. In November, Anderlecht charged travelling Bayern Munich fans €100 per ticket for their Champions League Group match in November. This prompted Club Nr 12 (a campaign created by Bayern Munich supporters) to accuse Anderlecht of breaching Article 19(3). As a result, UEFA has just charged Anderlecht with infringing Article 19(3) of UEFA’s Safety and Securities Regulations.
It is now reported that Manchester United officials have instigated a meeting with UEFA.
UEFA’s step to charge Anderlecht provides some hope for Manchester United supporters. These ticketing disputes – now ventilated – could be the catalyst for change which would no doubt be welcomed by all travelling football fans in Europe.