UK officials slam protests

Violence 'unacceptable', says sports minister; anti-Super League fans plan for more action

Fans protesting against Manchester United's owners on Sunday, with some storming the Old Trafford field before the Liverpool game. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Fans protesting against Manchester United's owners on Sunday, with some storming the Old Trafford field before the Liverpool game. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Violence during Sunday's protests from Manchester United fans, which led to the Premier League game with Liverpool being postponed, has been condemned by the British government's sports minister and the mayor of Greater Manchester.

United fans protesting against the club's American owners, the Glazer family, stormed into the stadium which was closed to fans due to Covid-19 restrictions.

A flare was thrown at the broadcasters podium as fans ran onto the field and protesters clashed with police outside the ground.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said two officers were injured with one requiring hospital treatment after he was attacked with a bottle and suffered slash wounds to his face.

"Passions are running high in football but there are ways to protest and make your voice heard without hurting or endangering others," said Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Tourism and Sport yesterday. "We understand the frustrations, but the violence by a small minority of fans at Old Trafford yesterday was unacceptable."

The fan protests against the Glazers came after United's involvement in the attempt to create a breakaway European Super League.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who publicly opposed the Super League plans, said he understood the motives behind the protests.

"I don't think it's a good idea to have disruptive behaviour, demonstrations of that kind, but on the other hand I do understand people's strength of feeling," he told reporters during a campaign visit in the north of England.

"It's a good thing that we've been able to do things that make it pretty clear that the European Super League is not going to be appreciated by the people of this country."

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham also expressed support for the aims of the protesters but criticised the violence.

"I fully understand the long-standing concerns of Manchester United supporters about both the ownership and financing of their club and the wider running of football," he said.

"It is important to make clear that the majority of supporters made their protest peacefully... however, there is no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others."

GMP Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said an investigation has been launched and those responsible will be prosecuted. According to the Manchester Evening News, at least one arrest was made on Sunday.

The Premier League said a new date for the match would be announced "in due course". It remains unclear if there will be any sanctions. The league also condemned "acts of violence, criminal damage and trespassing" and said "the actions of a minority seen today have no justification".

The Guardian published an article by a United fan, who went only by Jamie from the United We Stand fanzine, where he hailed Sunday's events as "the best outcome" for hundreds of fans as their plan was to make sure the game was delayed or abandoned.

"We'd love to have watched a Manchester United-Liverpool game but ultimately this is much bigger than that. If we get a points deduction we would not care," he wrote. The supporter, who invaded the Old Trafford pitch, added that there will be more protests.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'UK officials slam protests'. Subscribe