IMUSA - Independent Manchester United Supporters Association

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IMUSA news

Result of consultation on Policing and Stewarding at Anfield

Joint statement: Despite the modest outcomes from this consultation, IMUSA and MUST will continue to engage with the authorities to try and ensure that United fans are treated fairly

JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE INDEPENDENT MANCHESTER UNITED SUPPORTERS ASSOCIATION (IMUSA) & THE MANCHESTER UNITED SUPPORTERS’ TRUST (MUST)

Result of Consultation on Policing and Stewarding at Anfield 28/01/12

Statement Contains:
1. Summary of consultation with Merseyside Police, Liverpool Licensing Committee and LFC, Season 2011/12
2. Advice and information for Manchester United supporters travelling to Anfield, 28/01/12
3. Review of successes and failures of the consultation regarding allocation.
4. Review of successes and failures of the consultation regarding policing.
5. Contacts and Acknowledgements

1. Summary of consultation with Merseyside Police, Liverpool Licensing Committee and LFC, Season 2011/12

IMUSA and MUST, in conjunction with the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), have met with Merseyside police, Liverpool City Council’s licensing committee and representatives of Liverpool FC on several occasions this season. The aim of this consultation has been: (1) to restore Manchester United’s ticket allocation for matches at Anfield in line with Premier League/F.A. regulations, and (2) to provide guidance and assistance to travelling MUFC fans.

Consultation between fan groups and police/clubs/licensing authorities is recommended in many of the relevant regulations and codes of best practice for the police, football authorities and clubs, and liaison with all genuine fan organisations will be increasingly important in the future (particularly with the introduction from 2013 of Supporter Liaison Officers under UEFA Licensing requirements).

We are pleased that IMUSA and MUST have been identified as important stakeholders in this respect, and welcome the efforts of Merseyside police, LCC Licensing Committee and LFC in 2011/12 to engage in consultation. The discussions have been largely constructive, but we have not been completely successful in our aims and much progress can still be made.

  2. Advice and information for Manchester United supporters travelling to Anfield, 28/01/12

Based on the meeting held at Merseyside Police Headquarters on 18/01/12, we are expecting the following from the police and stewarding operation for visiting Manchester United supporters on the day of the match. However fans should be aware that police operations can change depending on intelligence they receive on the day.

a) There will be no alcohol on sale in the away sections of Anfield.

b) We have been assured that increased stewarding and policing of the Anfield Road upper stand will ensure no repeat of the persistent missile-throwing that United fans had to endure the last time they visited Anfield for an FA Cup tie (in 2006).

c) There is likely to be a hold-back of United fans for about 15 minutes after the final whistle while the streets surrounding the away end are cleared of home supporters. It is unlikely that fans will have access to toilet facilities during this period.

d) It is likely that there will be a police escort from Anfield to Liverpool Lime Street following the match. This should be a voluntary escort for fans and there is no obligation to join it. The police will make a decision on the day about whether to have a (voluntary) police escort to the stadium from the station. However remember that Merseyside police do retain the power to enforce an escort upon specific groups they consider to be ‘risk’ in terms of public order.

e) There will be no parking facilities set aside for visiting fans. However, car parks near Goodison Park will be available to away fans as well as home fans. There is also street parking in that area.

3. Review of the successes and failures of the consultation regarding allocation

We were disappointed with the decision of Liverpool’s licensing committee to reduce United’s allocation at the league game of 15/10/11 to just under 2,000. This was a decision taken on the grounds of ‘migration’ by United fans from their designated seats and the blocking of radial gangways at previous matches. Despite our representations to the licensing committee, we were unable to have this decision changed, but we were advised that if visiting fans kept gangways clear for the 15/10/11 match, then the full allocation would be restored for the subsequent match (whether league or cup). Feedback from Merseyside police following this match indicated that gangway blocking had not been a significant problem on this occasion.

In this context, we were disappointed with the licensing committee’s decision in January to reduce our FA Cup allocation by 960 tickets to 5,300. This decision was reached without any consultation with supporter groups and was made on the basis of ongoing problems of migration and gangways blocking. Given the reported improvement in the behaviour of United fans on 15/10/11, we feel this decision was unjust. We remain of the opinion that the sale of restricted view seats at the back of Anfield Road lower (the far goal cannot be seen when fans are standing) will continue to lead to fan migration. IMUSA and MUST acknowledge that standing in gangways is a problem for safety officers and the licensing authorities as it restricts access for police and paramedics and poses a risk of crowd surges. However we would prefer that licensing committees and Safety Advisory Groups work with supporters to identify long-term solutions rather than focussing on short-term aims and collective punishments.

We do, however, welcome the stance of the Council and LFC towards ‘persistent standing’ in seated areas. Despite misleading media reporting, MUFC did not have their allocation reduced due to standing and we agree with the views expressed in the meetings that the issue of standing in seated areas by itself does not pose health and safety risks for supporters.

4. Review of successes and failures of the consultation regarding policing.

We have had two very promising meetings with Merseyside Police and LFC regarding MUFC’s away matches in 2011/12. We welcome the invitations to engage in consultation and would also like to thank representatives from MUFC, the FA and Greater Manchester Police for also attending. Both meetings provided us with useful information and advice that we can pass on to supporters, and reassurances with regard to policing and stewarding. The identification of supporter and police liaison individuals during the match is also a potentially useful development.

We were, however, disappointed with the content of the Merseyside Police press release (25/01/12) which we do not feel reflects the tone or content of the meetings and instead focused on the risk of negative behaviour from some fans. We believe that press releases of this nature serve no useful purpose for supporters; they do not provide helpful information or advice and can be patronising or even threatening in tone. We also do not believe that they are useful as a deterrent against any supporters who intend on becoming involved in violence or disorder.

5. Contacts and Acknowledgements

Despite the relatively modest outcomes from the consultation on this occasion, IMUSA and MUST will continue to engage in liaison with clubs, local authorities and the police to try and ensure that MUFC fans receive a fair and equitable allocation in line with competition regulations, and are treated fairly and proportionately by police and stewards. We welcome approaches from other clubs and police forces where MUFC are playing and also welcome feedback from match-going United fans about specific or general concerns.

We would like to thank Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Federation (www.fsf.org.uk) and Dale Haslam from Redsaway (www.redsaway.com) for their assistance in this consultation process.

IMUSA is the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association and campaigns on issues such as ticketing, safe standing, atmosphere and governance. IMUSA also gives help and advice to individual members and will act on their behalf when in dispute with the club or authorities. Contact - www.imusa.org; e-mail: comms@imusa.org

MUST is the independent Manchester United Supporters’ Trust. It is campaigning for a meaningful supporter ownership stake in MUFC and represents over 175,000 members. Contact: www.joinmust.org; e-mail: matchgoingreds@joinmust.org