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Media release: MUST statement on MUFC allocation at Liverpool FC

At a meeting of the Liverpool Council Licensing Committee today there was a discussion on the proposed cut to the away capacity for visiting MUFC fans at the away fixture at Liverpool on 15th Oct 2011. It was claimed that standing in aisles by MUFC away supporters at the Anfield fixture last season is a safety issue and they proposed to significantly cut the away allocation in response.

MUST representatives (Dr Geoff Pearson along with the editor of the redsaway.com website Dale Haslam) attended the meeting and expressed the views of match going Manchester United supporters, highlighting that one of the major causes of this is severely restricted view rows at the back of the lower tier. Unfortunately the Council motion was successful and the allocation will now be cut. Yet the situation highlights serious concerns about the treatment of supporters, not least by football clubs themselves.

It is key to note that neither LFC or MUFC sought to engage with Manchester United supporters over this issue. It was our own initiative that led us to engage directly with Liverpool Council. Manchester United did not send any representatives to the meeting on behalf of the club or fans, and Manchester United even declined to meet with Manchester United supporters ahead of the Council meeting. Clubs should engage with their own fans over these issues so that we can complement each other in defending the club and its fans.

Points raised at the meeting included the following:

1. At no point prior to the meeting have Manchester United supporters been consulted about these plans, by Liverpool FC or Manchester United FC.

2. Prior to today, no-one has allowed United supporters to explain why aisle blocking occurs and how best to solve the problem. We want to be a constructive partner but, despite being the people most affected, are given no voice.

3. There are seats in the away end with severely restricted views sold at full price, it is inevitable some people will move to get a better view- it would make sense to not sell these seats rather than shutting all of block 124 to away fans.

4. Liverpool plan to sell the seats withdrawn from the away fans to home fans, meaning there is the same proportion of seats to spectators and there is no actual change to the safety arrangements. 

We acknowledge that problems of standing in gangways can occur in the away ends at United matches. However, incidents need to be dealt with individually, rather than collective punishment of a thousand innocent fans.

MUST represents 173k United supporters, including 21k season tickets holders. Despite our differences with the owners over the millions they are siphoning out of the club we believe it is important that our members are represented on such issues and we have offered to work with Manchester United to get the best deal for fans. It is dissapointing that neither club has consulted us and indeed Manchester United continue to refuse to talk to MUST, the largest independent MUFC fans group and the largest supporters trust in the country. 

We would urge that football clubs do not make decisions such as this without consulting those affected, not least because we can provide information and constructive advice to try to solve problems.

Finally, we do welcome the Council allowing the delegation of United supporters to attend the meeting today and put forward our views. We also welcome their acknowledgement that persistent standing itself is not a problem but rather the specific issue is blocking of aisles and we will be highlighting this to our own members.

MUST attendance at the meeting was as a result of inquiries by independent MUFC blogger Dale Haslam who runs the Reds Away website http://www.redsaway.com

MUST was represented by committee member and MUFC season ticket holder Dr Geoff Pearson who is an expert in football law and crowd behaviour. http://pcwww.liv.ac.uk/~pearsong/GeoffPearson.htm
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