WorldChoice Sports, a company that offers sports ticket and travel packages, has been criticised for reportedly attempting to sell passes and hotel stays for this weekend’s Premier League Manchester derby despite the match being played behind closed doors.

An investigation by the Press Association news agency alleges the UK firm has been trying to shift packages for Saturday’s clash between Manchester United and Manchester City from £340 per person. However, fans remain banned from Old Trafford as Manchester sits in Tier 3 of England’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The company posted a tweet on Monday offering packages for Manchester United home games starting from £169 per person, as well as Newcastle United fixtures. Newcastle is also under tier three Covid-19 measures at present. The tweet has since been deleted, PA reports.

WorldChoice Sports’ website said that no tickets were currently available for Manchester United matches owing to the restrictions, but PA phoned its office on Tuesday morning posing as a customer interested in buying a package for the club’s match with Leeds United on December 20.

This is the first match at Old Trafford after the next review of the tier system on December 16, when fans could conceivably be allowed in if Manchester moves into tier two.

According to PA, the firm said that no tickets were available for that match, but the caller was offered tickets and a hotel for the Manchester derby this Saturday instead.

Despite repeatedly querying how that could be possible given the current restrictions, the WorldChoice Sport sales representative reportedly proceeded to work out a quote as well as pointing out that tickets were also available for the Wolverhampton Wanderers match on December 29.

For the derby, the rep said that the cheapest option for two people was £680 for tickets and a night’s stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

At no stage did the employee state that attending this match was impossible or point out that hotels in Tier 3 could only welcome guests in a small number of exceptional circumstances, and attempted to take payment using the credit card details supplied.

The representative said tickets could be refunded, but said the hotel could not be refunded due to the cancellation period in effect.

WorldChoice’s representative claimed the company was able to access these tickets because they came from “a supplier based outside the UK”.

World Choice managing director Shay Soni told PA: “One of our suppliers offered the tickets to home fans only and other suppliers offered the hotel. A member of staff did not understand the tier system and that Manchester is in Tier 3 and hotels should therefore be closed. The offer has been taken off and we have not sold any.”

Manchester United said in a statement: “Old Trafford remains closed to spectators and therefore no tickets are currently available for any of our matches. Any attempt to mislead supporters into buying tickets which are not available is deplorable.”

Which? consumer rights expert Adam French added: “Under current tier three restriction sports fans are banned from attending matches, so it is unacceptable for any company to sell fans tickets for fixtures they’ll never be able to attend.

“People must be vigilant when looking to book events or sports fixtures and check whether they could be affected by regional restrictions before making a purchase. They should also use a credit card for any purchases worth £100 or more as they may be able to get their money back should something go wrong.”