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Dundee United agreed ticket plan . . . why complain now?

IT does not get much better for a football chairman than having the chance to mouth off about high ticket prices when the blame can be laid at someone else's door.

Those Dundee United supporters who have been complaining about the cost of tickets for next month's Scottish Cup final against St Johnstone have found a willing champion in their club's figurehead, Stephen Thompson. Some buckshot has been coming the way of the Scottish Football Association from a familiar direction of fire: Tannadice.

Thompson has been giving the SFA earache about how they've handled this cup final. To recap, tickets have been priced at £35 for Parkhead's North and Sound Stands (with no concessions) and at £28 and £10 (for under-16s, students and over-65s) for the ends behind the goals.

Thompson's gripe isn't about the £35 headline price (the same as it was at last season's final) but the fact there are not concession tickets available for those parts of the ground. According to him, the SFA should be doing far more to fill the 60,000 seats at a game where supply will far exceed demand. "People are not buying tickets and they're complaining," he said.

Now, there a few strange aspects to this position from Thompson and not the least of them is that Dundee United supporters are buying tickets, in their droves. United's sales have been around the 20,000 mark before the tickets have even been released on general sale. £35 might be a little on the steep side but it can't be said to be grossly expensive or genuinely prohibitive and there has been no genuine outcry.

People are asked to pay more for Commonwealth Games tickets or Scotland rugby friendlies than for the showpiece game of the football season. The most expensive cup final ticket is cheaper than the latest strip United launched this week (kids shirts at £36, youths £38, adults £44, another three quid if you want long sleeves). And like most clubs, United change strips more often than they reach cup finals.

Their general sale begins at 9am today. Maybe what Thompson has been trying to pre-empt is the criticism which could come his way when lots of non-season-ticket holders realise that just about all the concession tickets are gone and kids, students and pensioners may have to pay the full whack, £35 each.

United rightly let their season-ticket holders have the first access but they put no restriction on the numbers they could buy.

The end result will be a severe shortage, or even at total absence, of concession tickets behind the goal when the non-season-ticket holders reach the head of the queue this morning. Thompson's position is that the SFA should now provide more concessions in the £35 areas. That is the equivalent of saying there should be one ticket plan at the start of the week and a different one at the end of it. Moving the goalposts now could mean students, kids or pensioners who do not have season tickets would have a better seat than those who do, at the same price.

One other point is relevant in Thompson's current moan about the cup final: Dundee United were in on this plan on concession tickets from the start. The club agreed the pricing and the distribution at a "pre-ops" meeting involving both finalists and the authorities within days of winning their semi-final.

They signed up to the price and agreed the number of tickets they would need and receive. After that, it was entirely up to them how they were distributed.

There has been one conspicuously silent party in this storm in a teacup. St Johnstone's sales reached the 13,200 mark yesterday, a remarkable figure for the impressive Perth club.

They have been selling tickets for £35, for £28, and £10 for concessions, without fuss or complaint, just as they sat with the SFA and agreed that they would.

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