A THOUSAND tickets for today's Blackburn Rovers home game against Wimbledon were given away free to students.

The hand-out is all part of Rovers' new strategy to attract more fans from further afield to boost attendances at Ewood.

The club has decided that its long-term future relies on bringing in fans from outside the traditional Blackburn and Darwen heartlands.

The tickets, worth about £16 each, were given to students at Lancaster University, who snapped them up.

Rachel Samuel, president of the university's Athletics Union, said she thought the move would encourage more students to make the trip to Blackburn.

"We got rid of all the tickets in a day and a half," said Rachel. "Rovers is the nearest Premiership club to us, so it's a good move by the club.

"The tickets and the travel mean it's a £20 day out, but it might interest students and give them a taste for next season.

"Some people may be put off by the cost, but I think it's a good idea and we are very grateful to Blackburn Rovers."

Other groups and organisations also received free tickets for the match, including Blackburn's Longton Estate Residents' Association.

Rovers' business development manager Alan McColgan, said he did not think season ticket holders would object to students being given free tickets for the Wimbledon game.

"We'd hope that they would appreciate what we are trying to do," he said. "More people coming to our matches can only strengthen our club.

"Where we do promotions like this they are not necessarily the best seats in the ground and are only going to be left empty in this type of game where there isn't a lot of away support.

"It's not a question of bringing new people in at the expense of our existing fans."

Mr McColgan added: "We already have tremendous support within the Blackburn and Darwen area but we are determined to market the club over a much wider area."

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