Manchester United have come in for renewed criticism for their season ticket policy which requires all fans to purchase tickets for the FA Cup replay against League Two Cambridge United.
United have for a number of years insisted any fan who holds a season card must buy a ticket for all home FA Cup matches, and anyone who fails to comply will have their season card suspended for a forthcoming Premier League fixture at Old Trafford.
Cambridge make the trip to face United on Tuesday in the replay of their fourth-round tie, but prices have not been reduced meaning all season card holders must buy a ticket costing around 50 pounds -- and anyone who fails to do so will be banned from attending the Sunderland fixture on Feb. 28.
It effectively means season card holders are being punished for the club's failure to beat a League Two team by being forced to buy tickets at top prices for a replay arranged at short notice, being played on a midweek evening.
The vast majority of fans have a credit card on file, which is automatically charged with the price of the cup ticket. But any fan whose credit card has expired faces the prospect of action, unless they come forward to pay for a ticket.
On Wednesday, United sent letters and emails to all fans who had still to secure an FA Cup ticket underlining the policy. It read: "The deadline to buy your seat for Cambridge United is 8 p.m. tonight. Please note that not buying this ticket will result in your Season Ticket being suspended for the Sunderland game."
One United season card holder is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: "I find it unbelievable that the club think they can treat loyal supporters like myself that spend thousands with them like this -- sending an email making threats and setting deadlines.
"This isn't the first time this has happened and I'm sure it won't be the last. I'm sick to death of having emails like this.
"To be honest I would be willing to miss both the Cambridge and Sunderland games as a matter of principle."
The club have always made it clear that the cup tickets are a requirement of any fan who takes up a season card. A section on their official website states that season ticket holders can opt out of Capital One Cup matches, while under 16s do not have to buy tickets for any cup game. However, opting out of a cup match affects a season ticket holder's priority on away matches.
The last line of the page states: "Failure to make payments may result in a ticket suspension, please see Terms and Conditions."
A United spokesman underlined this to the Guardian, saying: "We did notify fans that failure to pay for a game in the cup scheme would mean a suspension from the next game. We have consistently done this throughout this season.
"The terms and conditions are clear: 'In respect of each home cup match for which the ticket holder fails to provide valid payment card details or for which the ticket holder's card or payment is declined, the ticket holder's season ticket may be suspended for one home league match. This measure was introduced [two seasons ago].
"If we successfully sell the ticket the fan has failed to pay for, they can apply for a refund of the Sunderland ticket at the end of the season."