Manchester United will review security arrangements in the wake of Sunday’s protest at Old Trafford and consider banning fans responsible for criminality, with the club denying a gate was opened by a staff member to allow individuals into the stadium.
United’s match with Liverpool had to be postponed and the club hierarchy is assessing how a gathering intended to be peaceful unfolded. Some of those who gained entry caused criminal damage, and unrest in the Munich Tunnel caused injuries to two police officers, one of whom required hospital treatment. Although those who stood on the pitch will not necessarily face sanction from United any individual who committed illegality will.
“Reports in mainstream and social media that protesters were able to access the stadium and pitch via a gate opened by club staff are completely incorrect,” United said. “After breaking through barriers and security on the forecourt, some protestors climbed the gates at the end of the Munich tunnel, then forced access to a side door in the stand, before opening an external door that let others through to the concourse area and the pitch. A second breach occurred when a protestor smashed the door of a disability access lift, enabling a group to enter the stand.
“The majority of our fans have and will condemn criminal damage, along with any violence towards club staff, police or other fans, and these now become a police matter. The club has no desire to see peaceful protestors punished, but will work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season-ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy.”
United have three more home matches – against Leicester, Fulham and the rearranged Liverpool fixture – with the first due on Wednesday week. There is a recognition at the club that security measures should be assessed for these. Those who gathered at the ground and at the Lowry hotel, where the team stay before matches, had intended to delay the game or cause its postponement and there are plans for more protests against the owners, the Glazers, whose leveraged buyout in 2005 loaded a debt on United that stands at £455m.
Sunday’s security arrangements had been designed to allow peaceful protests, and there was no heavy police presence in the forecourt of Old Trafford where the crowd assembled because there was no wish to send a provocative or negative signal.
The Football Association, which along with the Premier League is investigating Sunday’s episode, condemned the illegality.
United reiterated the promise from co-owner Joel Glazer to engage in dialogue with supporters disaffected by the club’s signing up to the now defunct European Super League. “We remain committed to dialogue and engagement with our fans through the Fans Forum and other appropriate channels,” it said.
Whether this means Joel Glazer or any other family member will directly converse with them is unclear. The Fans Forum includes 11 representatives of match-going supporters, drawn from different sections of Old Trafford.
In an open letter to Joel Glazer, Manchester United Supporters Trust said on Monday: “What happened [on Sunday] was the culmination of 16 years in which your family’s ownership of the club has driven us into debt and decline, and we have felt ever more sidelined and ignored. After 16 years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us, the club’s Supporters Trust.”
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