Manchester United: a standing joke


No, we’re not having a go at the geographical disposition of United’s support, or trying to wind up the occasionally oafish Gary Neville or his professionally grumpy (and phenomenally succesful) manager. We’re actually sympathising with the club’s travelling fans …

Being refused permission to stand up at football is not something that should, in all honesty, bother me.

When the chant goes up to “Stand up if you … ” love or hate this or that, him or them, and is most commonly followed by “hate the Mags”, my heart is with the rival group that responds with “Sit doon if you hate the Toon”.

But there are times, even after rather too many decades of watching the game, when I am moved to rise to my feet because something is happening on the field to bring hope, fear or excitement – or maybe just because I need to be high enough above fans ahead of me to be able to see at all.

And my instinct is to support the Manchester United fans who have been told their persistent habit of standing will result in a ticket allocation of just 1,300 for the second last game of the season, which – ominously for us – brings them to the Stadium of Light. This contrasts with a minimum of 3,000 to which United would ordinarily be entitled to expect.

The row in chronicled at the United fans’ site, The Republik of Mancunia, under the headline” “Are Sunderland having a laugh?”

Scores of comments follow. Some contain mindless abuse or insults aimed at Sunderland or our fans. Some make valid points. And SAFC fans are among those who were happy to agree with the proposition that United are being unfairly treated.

Paul Weir, the safety officer at the SoL, is quoted by the site as saying: “Unless there is some change in current thinking, persistent standing remains a breach in the ground regulations. We are duty bound to encourage people to sit in our all seater stadium in consideration of spectator safety and comfort.”

Republik of Mancunia, while erroneously claiming there are 12,000 empty seats at every Sunderland home game (the average is just below 40,000 and the capacity is 49,000), points out that the decision is actually counter-productive, since many United fans will acquire tickets in home areas and therefore mix with Sunderland supporters.

It also says fans in the home areas at Sunderland “are guilty of persistent standing, although the club are apparently happy to keep dishing out tickets to them”.

Of course, United fans have no monopoly on being penalised for standing and Sunderland supporters are not exempt from failures by clubs to apply the rules even-handedly. Wear Down South, the newsletter of the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association, points that that stewards at Arsenal seemed to notice only our fans on their feet, not Gooners.

But I find myself on the side of United’s supporters. I hope many more than 1,300 are allowed to watch from the away end (though I naturally hope that they leave disappointed with the result).

I find the safety argument dificult to accept. And even if some minor additional risk of injury is somehow involved, it is diffiult to quarrel with Republik of Mancuina’s central point:

“Does this(the reduced allocation) mean there will only be 1,300 United fans in the ground? Of course not. We will get in the ground one way or another although that will create a greater threat to spectator safety and comfort.”

Over to you, Mr Weir and the city council. Rid football of this petty bureaucracy.

* With thanks to “terry6082 Books” from the image, from his Flickr pages

Colin Randall

5 thoughts on “Manchester United: a standing joke”

  1. “It also says fans in the home areas at Sunderland “are guilty of persistent standing, although the club are apparently happy to keep dishing out tickets to them”. ”

    This part tickled me because I instantly remembered Liverpool beachball match, as a sold out Liverpool away end remained stood for the entire match while the blue coated stewards sweeped through every ten minutes making the Sunderland fans sit down.

    In some sense I’m a lucky one and it goes against my own point, as I’ve never been told to sit down yet and I get away with standing for the ninety minutes I’m at the match. There is no safety issue as far as I’m concerned but I understand health and safety regulations aren’t always cut and dry like you would hope.

    Saying that I have noticed away fans treated with a heavier hand than our own, that’s for sure. However it’s generally for other offences as opposed to “persistent standing.”

    Give the club their 3,000 – it’s all revenue for Sunderland at the end of the day regardless of how little an extra 1,700 fans buying a ticket will affect our bank balance in the long run. It makes no sense to alienate a group of fans when everytime I’ve been to a match – the away fans area always stood (or in the cases of Wigan, Blackburn and Pompey it doesn’t matter as they weren’t going to sell 500 tickets let alone 3,000).

  2. I don’t agree at all with M Utd fans stance on standing simply because of their arrogance. They think they have a god damn right to do what ever they want at football matches. Its about time they were called to heal for their inability to follow Premier League rules. Whats good enough for the goose is good enough for the gander.

  3. Sitting down has largely spoilt the experience of football for me in all honesty. It just isn’t the same.

    It puzzles me that Man Utd’s supporters are being singled out for this treatment. I say this assuming that they can not be the only fans who travel and insist on standing up. Firstly, what is different about them?; and secondly what harm does it do to stand?

  4. Since the advent of all seater stadiums (stadia) I, and others like me have seen a lot more of the action on the pitch than we ever did in a big crowd on the old terraces. But there is no doubt that it is harder to generate an atmosphere when everyone is sitting down. Those with me at Gigg Lane, Bury on our promotion winning night in the Peter Reid years wll remember how brilliant the second half was. The last ever match at Roker Park I remember well too. Not just because of the occasion but the restricted numbers due to health and safety no doubt allowed me to witness Southall’s blunder and Waddle’s free kick which I perhaps wouldn’t have seen in previous years.

    Given the choice I prefer to stand at lower league football and sit when there’s a big crowd. I would give my support to any campaign that seeks to bring back choice for the average fan even one begun by those from that club in Salford.

    And I have to say that from my vantage point in the home area at the SoL the stewarding of away supporters does seem heavy handed. I shall show my support for the campaign by wearing a red, white and black scarf to the last home game of the season.

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