Manchester United: a questionable stand

manu fans


Salut! Sunderland‘s spot of innocent fun on how to keep Alan Hutton at the Stadium of Light attracted nearly three times as many people to the site as will be allowed into the away end when we play Man Utd on May 9. All because United fans like to stand. Let us weigh up the arguments …

One thing needs to be clear. I’d prefer Manchester United to win the title. But success for Chelsea is a price I will happily pay for seeing Sunderland beat United as convincingly as we are able in our final home game.

Unlike many football supporters, I do not dislike Man Utd.

It is much more global brand than proper football club, some of its supporters are unbearably arrogant and it would be charitable to say that only traces of that arrogance appear to exist in the manager’s office and dressing room.

But Sir Alex’s achievements cannot be regarded fairly as anything short of magnificent and the team has often played exhilarating football that brings credit to the Premier League.

It is true that at Old Trafford, United supporters sometimes seem curiously drawn to the approach of Trappist monks to opening the mouth and releasing sound. But the travelling support is different. It is always in hearty voice and it invariably likes to stand.

As a result of this well-known preference, United’s allocation of tickets for the game at Sunderland has been cut from the usual minimum of 3,000 to 1,700.

Despite an appeal by United, SAFC says the decision has been confirmed by a local safety advisory group following the refusal of United supporters to heed warnings over persistent standing on previous visits to the SoL.

As I said when I first wrote about this decision – Manchester United: a standing joke – I tend to side with the Sunderland fans whose response to “Stand up if you hate the Mags” is “Sit doon if you hate the Toon”.

At home games, the urge to stand is non-existent, however exciting the match, unless movement in the rows below obscures what is going on. But in common with most fans, I am often driven to my feet at away games. The need to see is often the motivating factor, because of inadequate visibility or the generally more enthusiastic nature of the support, but it always seems a fairly harmless thing to do.

Rules lose meaning and moral justification if they are not applied consistently.

But it is difficult to quarrel with the argument of the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA) that the blindingly obvious reality – United fans buying tickets from Sunderland fans and sitting in home areas – presents a significantly greater safety threat than up to 3,000 people standing in their own enclosure.

The association’s spokesman, Mark Longden, is quoted as saying: “The safety argument is spurious at best. This could be an absolutely pivotal game, so there will be many more than 1,700 United fans travelling to Sunderland. They will just buy tickets from the home fans.

“In 1996, we went to Middlesbrough on the final day of the season and their fans were selling their season tickets for £200-300 to United fans.

“What is to stop the Sunderland fans doing the same next week? They could pay for next year’s season ticket from the proceeds and then watch the game in the pub.”

Salut! Sunderland‘s pages are open, on this question as on any other, to official responses and opposing views. But nothing I have read so far removes the suspicion that that a sledgehammer is being used for the task of cracking a nut, and that this may heighten the risk of another kind of nut being cracked on May 9.

Colin Randall


* With thanks to Paolo Camera for his Flickr image.


* NB: a recent deluge of spam means comments from people who have not been this way and posted before will have to await moderation. Sorry.

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8 thoughts on “Manchester United: a questionable stand”

  1. Red Rupert we may not be the most thrilling fixture of the year but equally there was a frisson of fear going round your ground towards the end of the game that we were about to beat you, so that must have perked up the excitement factor a little for you.

  2. Red Rupert:

    “Regarding your comments about OT being quiet, it’s probably because when you visit, Sunderland don’t represent the most thrilling fixture of the year … You’re all so dizzy on your big day out you can’t hear outside your own little circle.”

    Perhaps you got dizzy seeing a neutral being kind to Man U for a change.

    But when essentially denying arrogance, arrogance is not the best tactic. Thrill-free though our visits may seem, you should have been in the fullest of voices at OT this season, urging on your team to the deflected last gasp goal that won you a point when the world wanted us to have all three!

  3. Alan

    I think we’d agree an ability to mix would be healthier.

    Sadly, the reality is that a football supporter reacting “incorrectly” when among rival fans (cheering a goal) = a pubic order issue that doesn’t arise if fans meant to be seated are standing but in their own end.

  4. But it is difficult to quarrel with the argument of the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA) that the blindingly obvious reality – United fans buying tickets from Sunderland fans and sitting in home areas – presents a significantly greater safety threat than up to 3,000 people standing in their own enclosure.

    What a damning indictment of the football supporters. I have watched Sunderland play all over the country more often than not sitting in the oppositions seats when unable to secure a ticket in the visitors end with no trouble whatsoever. In rugby all over the world it is the norm however sitting cheek by jowl with the opposition and there is nothing but good hearted banter from well oiled supporters.,

    I well remember an English winger racing down the touch line and a Welshman shouting “take him out Ackerman take him out.” An English voice said “?Ackerman couldn’t take out a fairy” to which the Welshman’s response was ” Oh I don’t know he’d be up for it.

    Football would be all the better for such an attitude.

    In the mean time build a limited number of standing terrace areas for some of the away supporters, who wish to stand and let old codgers like me sit in comfort without our view of the game being constantly disrupted.

    I think it is a disgrace that Manu are penalised when we do not enforce no standing at SOL, health and safety gone mad as usual

  5. Travelling United fans tend to get hit in two ways by the home clubs: ticket prices are always the highest possible because United is invariably a category A game, and then some clubs do the reduced allocation thing. They tend to hide behind Elf & Safety but the suspicion is often that the clubs know the United game will be a sell-out so they can afford to reduce a noisy away contingent to boost their own home support. The Germans have ‘safe standing’ at their stadiums but the PL refuses to implement it in England because they like the idea here of keeping the plebs (literally) in their places. United’s travelling support, among the best away support in the country, will continue to get screwed. Oddly, if you watch the away support at most stadiums on Match of the Day, they seem to be standing but don’t suffer any repercussions. Perhaps United fans should just stay seated. Or perhaps United the club should start doing a tit for tat. Perhaps if Sunderland fans, for example, only get 1700 tickets for their next visit to Old Trafford, the pressure might lead to some home clubs being a bit more tolerant. All the best with your remaining games, except of course the United one. Our common dislike of Newcastle means we have more in common than most clubs. (You’re also a useful dumping ground for players we don’t want. Fancy Berbs?)

  6. I too would prefer Man Utd to win the PL rather than Chelsea; I also hope Sunderland beat them next week. The ticket allocation is ridiculous, you could argue that they have brought it upon themselves but which away supporters don’t stand these days? Ourselves included.
    I also agree with the point that infiltration of the home areas poses a greater risk than the standing fans, but maybe that wouldn’t be any different even if a full allocation was given – it could be a league winning day and United fans could well turn up from all directions.
    Personally I don’t know any STH who would risk losing their seat by selling it for one match, but I could imagine fans buying one-off tickets, for instance in the south stand, and selling them on. I just hope that a game which is one of the highlights of the season isn’t marred by off the field activities.

  7. Same old same old.

    Reason goes out of the window where Manchester United are concerned. Too many people get all emotional when the big show comes to town. “Let’s show em who’s in charge here because we can”.

    The truth is that you wouldn’t ban Portsmouth fans if they did stand (and probably do) because you need arses on seats. United are in town so every Sunderland supporter who’s been around since Charlie Hurley will be up for it.

    At least you gave it some consideration, so thanks for that.

    Regarding your comments about OT being quiet, it’s probably because when you visit, Sunderland don’t represent the most thrilling fixture of the year. Sorry for the “arrogance” but try to face it. You’re all so dizzy on your big day out you can’t hear outside your own little circle. Yep, Old Trafford could be better, but then again, I don’t know of any other ground whose home support makes me tremble either. United’s so called “arrogance” appears to be just that, when we are constantly sniped at for the crime of being successful.

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