Update: The club has removed the £2.50 charge following “fan feedback”, but the £3 surcharge for buying in the two hours before kick-off remains.
Football fans who buy their match tickets from Charlton Athletic’s ticket office at The Valley face having to pay an extra £2.50, it has emerged.
The club – run by unpopular Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet – has slapped the extra sum onto the cost of each transaction to encourage fans to buy their tickets online instead.
Duchâtelet’s management, led by chief executive Katrien Meire, is also levying a £3 charge on each ticket bought in the two hours before kick-off.
They say supporters can escape the charges by buying in advance and printing their tickets at home, or using a smartphone. Fans can order online and have tickets posted to them for £1, while telephone orders now also cost £2.50.
But fans, who invaded the Valley pitch at the end of last season to protest at the way Duchâtelet and Meire run the Addicks, have complained that the club’s ticketing website is unreliable and does not offer a full range of ticketing options.
The charge also affects casual supporters, such as people who live close to the club who may decide at the last minute to watch a match, or opt to buy in person because it is more convenient than using online methods.
Arrangements for away matches – which are supplied by the host club and cannot be printed at home – are also unclear. The club’s ticket office implied on Twitter this afternoon that the charge would apply for away tickets, but fans could escape the charge by ordering online and then collecting from The Valley. When asked to confirm this, the club did not respond.
It has long been believed that Duchâtelet and Meire are running down the club’s ticket office to persuade fans to switch to online ticketing, saving money and creating a potentially lucrative marketing database. It is already only open to personal callers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
The club could be in breach of consumer law if it does not offer a way of buying tickets that does not result in an additional booking fee.
Fans uncovered the fiasco today as tickets for the first away match of the club’s League One season, against Bury, went on sale. Many may now just simply bypass Charlton and buy their tickets directly from the Greater Manchester club on 6 August, the day of the match, if they are available there.
Following the club’s relegation to League One, life at The Valley had appeared to be more stable since the appointment of new manager Russell Slade, a reversal of Duchâtelet’s past policy of employing “head coaches” who he was already familiar with.
But season ticket sales are widely believed to be well down on last season as fans boycott the club. Duchâtelet and Meire’s decision to levy extra charges on individual match tickets is expected to further hit attendances at The Valley, which were already set to drop to their smallest level for two decades.
The Coalition Against Roland Duchâtelet campaign group – whose eye-catching stunts included a funeral cortege down Charlton Church Lane to The Valley – is promising more protests in the new season. It is holding a fundraising party at the White Swan in Charlton Village on 23 July, featuring the launch of a specially-brewed ale, Roland’s Ruin.