United accuse tabloid of conspiring with violent fans

LONDON • Manchester United have made an official complaint against Britain's The Sun, saying the tabloid had received advance notice of the attack on the house of Ed Woodward last month.

The incident occurred on Jan 28, when a group wearing balaclavas launched flares at the Cheshire home of the club's executive vice-chairman. Graffiti was sprayed on the front gates and intercom unit, with the house sign beside it defaced with red spray paint.

A video of the attack was then posted on social media with the caption: "Ed Woodward's gonna die."

Neither Woodward, 48, nor his family, who include his two young daughters, were home.

United have made a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), Britain's largest independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry, about The Sun's coverage. Punishments for serious breaches of standards can lead to a fine of up to £1 million (S$1.8 million).

"The club believes that The Sun newspaper had received advance notice of the intended attack, which included criminal damage and intent to intimidate, and that the journalist was present as it happened," read United's statement.

"The quality of the images accompanying the story indicate that a photographer was also present...

"We believe that this was a clear breach of both the Ipso editors' code and journalistic ethics."

A spokesman for the paper said: "The Sun condemns fully the attack ... and is happy to cooperate fully with any police inquiry. However The Sun, like all newspapers, vigorously defends its right to report.

"Following a tip-off that there was to be a protest, a Sun reporter attended. The Sun accurately reported the events that unfolded.

"...The article made it clear that the behaviour was criminal and unacceptable."

The attack on Woodward's home was an escalation of the growing discontent among the United fan base towards his running of the club and the ownership of the Glazer family.

United are in seventh in the Premier League table, 38 points behind leaders Liverpool (73).

Meanwhile, the side's new signing Odion Ighalo, who joined on loan from China's Shanghai Shenhua, will miss a training camp in Spain as he may not clear British immigration on their return should border restrictions tighten due to the coronavirus epidemic.

"Odion will stay in Manchester because he arrived from China in the last 14 days," United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the club's website.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 09, 2020, with the headline 'United accuse tabloid of conspiring with violent fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe