Stoke froze United’s allocation after a fan injured a child while trying to get into the ground.United will get just 2,592 tickets for the Boxing Day clash, whereas Liverpool got the maximum of 2,731 earlier this season.Stoke and Stoke-on-Trent City Council initially refused to justify the freeze until the council was today forced to, by revealing documents tagged ‘confidential’ and ‘classified’ under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act.The documents indicate that Stoke officials took great exception to the possibility of Premier League intervention into the issue and show they were not even willing to discuss with United officials the possibility of, for example, United stewards manning the away end – as has successfully been used at other games.
MUST committee member for away ticketing issues Dale Haslam said: “Stoke have sound reasons for freezing the allocation and, while the Boxing Day stewarding operation seems strong, hopefully it will mean a maximum allocation next season.“However, we strongly object to the fact that Stoke reached the decision without even listening to United’s offers to help and that they were not willing to justify the freeze to MUST.“In an age of supporter liaison officers, this is unacceptable and we would urge Stoke to liaise with supporters better next season. Every other Premier League club manages it, and so should Stoke.”The documents show that, when the teams last met at the Britannia Stadium, club stewards were faced with “marauding Manchester United supporters attempting to infiltrate exit gates around the stadium, resulting in excess of 40 ejections and one arrest of a Manchester United supporter, who assaulted a child in the Family Stand by attempting an unauthorised entry into the stand,” according to Stoke’s head of health, safety and security Ravi Sharma.He added: “We also had issues with ticket touts and attempts of ticket pass-backs.“Even more perverse was the situation of over 40 Manchester United fans turning up with no tickets whatsoever – who even traveled on coaches with the intention of gaining access into the ground.“Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence for this fixture and, therefore, the operation has to be managed appropriately.”Mr Sharma added that there was “persistent standing, blocking of gangways, vormitories and aisles and unruly behaviour.“We also will not be selling alcohol in the concourse and all shelving, signage or anything that cannot be secured properly will be removed, based on the previous past couple of seasons’ behaviour of visiting supporters.“Also, we will be bringing in extra steward resources to assist in the searching operation outside and also to manage appropriately inside the stadium.”Mr Sharma added: “We, as a club, considered reducing your allocation further, but we have not done so and will obviously monitor your supporters’ behaviour this season.“We take absolutely no pleasure in putting restrictions in place, but we have to maintain a safe environment.”The documents show that, at some point before November 12, Stoke contacted United to state the allocation would be frozen, without explanation.On November 12, United staff wrote to Stoke asking why and for a meeting.Mr Sharma provided a detailed explanation to United – as outlined above – but ignored the request for a meeting.United responded on November 16 to repeat the request for a meeting.“We would like the opportunity to discuss/attempt to resolve this without us involved the Premier League,” said the United official in an email.That prompted an email from a Stoke City employee to Stoke-on-Trent City Council officials, a police officer and a Sports Grounds Safety Authority official, which reads: “As you can see, [United] are now objecting [to the allocation] with a veiled attempt at bringing in the Premier League.“As far as I am concerned, I have provided more than enough information/justification for this decision.“If they were to request a meeting [with the Premier League], then I would oppose the Premier League’s passing decisions on our safety management processes. I would also open out the meeting to yourselves to attend.”A council employee responded by indicating he supported Stoke City’s position.The documents then show how council staff responded to Reds Away enquiries about the club’s right to set the allocation without council interference, but at no point attempted to provide information justifying the frozen allocation.Separate enquiries to Stoke City were met with a suggestion that Reds Away should get such information from United.In one email, Stoke’s supporter growth and services manager Anthony Emmerson wrote: “The simple answer is that the matter will be discussed club to club.”
Reproduced with permission from original article on Reds Away on UWS