Manchester United: Calls for owners to engage with fans after protests

Tensions began building before the Super League upset, ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia explains

Manchester United fans have written an open letter to co-chairman Joel Glazer urging the club owners to engage in fan consultation to avoid a repeat of the scenes at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) say the Glazer family have failed to engage with the fans since taking over the club in 2005, with the protests the result of frustrations "reaching boiling point".

“Let’s be very clear that no-one wants what happened at Old Trafford yesterday to be a regular event,” said the letter.

“What happened 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."

MUST has asked for a public and written response by Friday.

“This is the only way to move this issue on. We strongly suggest you take it,” concluded the letter.

Manchester United explained in a statement how fans gained access to the stadium and playing area: "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 club confirmed they would work with police to seek those responsible for those involved in criminal activity relating the incident at Old Trafford.

The protests which left six police officers injured have been condemned as “completely unacceptable” by police representatives.

Greater Manchester Police Federation said one of the officers injured during a protest by Manchester United fans on Sunday suffered “life-changing” eye injuries.

Police have also confirmed that 28-year-old man has been arrested.

Stu Berry, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, which represents the force’s rank-and-file, said the injured officer was a Pc with around 20 years’ service.

He said: “Our brave colleague went to work yesterday to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe – and he ended up coming under attack. He is incredibly lucky not to have lost the sight in an eye." MUST says it does not condone any acts of violence. 

The injuries happened after around 100 fans stormed the pitch at Old Trafford ahead of Manchester United's planned game against Liverpool, in protest at the host's American owners, the Glazer family.

Violence which broke out at Manchester United’s Premier League match against Liverpool has been condemned. Credit: Barrington Coombs/PA

Outside the ground, injuries were inflicted as a group began hurling bottles and barriers at officers and horses in violence which should be condemned in “the strongest possible terms” by football pundits, clubs and players, according to National Police Federation chairman John Apter.

He said: “Yet again we’ve seen a so-called peaceful protest turn to violence with that aimed at my colleagues. Officers were injured and required hospital treatment. This is completely unacceptable.”

Greater Manchester Police launched an investigation following the officer's injury.Mr Berry said officers are not “punchbags for people protesting” a cause.

He added: “At the end of their shifts, hard-working police officers should be able to go home to their families in one piece. Not be rushed to hospital.”

He said the culprits must be identified and prosecuted because football fans do support peaceful protest in favour of the national game but these were “appalling scenes” of “mindless violence” that was carried out by a “minority” of people.

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said calls for the Glazers to sell are unrealistic

GMP assistant chief constable Russ Jackson said it was clear many demonstrators had no intention of protesting peacefully as he condemned their “reckless and dangerous” behaviour.

Manchester United were among 12 clubs that last month signed up for the breakaway Super League, which collapsed within 48 hours due to huge, unrelenting pressure.

Police said that by late afternoon around 200 protesters had gathered outside the Lowry theatre and more than 1,000 at the stadium.

Firecrackers were let off outside the ground as protesters marched towards the Munich Tunnel with green and yellow smoke filling the air.

Red fences put in front of the East Stand did not last long as the handful of stewards were swiftly overcome and barriers toppled.

Safety and security fears forced the match, which was supposed to kick-off at 4.30pm, to be postponed. It is to take place on a date which has yet to be set.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said on Twitter: “It is important to make clear that the majority of supporters made their protest peacefully today. However, there is no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others.

“This could be an important moment to change football for the better. We should all condemn violence of any kind and keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game.”

The Premier League said it understood the fans’ “strength of feeling”, but condemned “all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches”.

It added: “Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.

“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.”