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IMUSA Proposals to the Football Task Force

Manchester 5th February 1998


Contents
  1. Ground Configuration
  2. Pricing Policy
  3. Away Fixtures and Ticket Allocation
  4. European Travel
  5. Coca Cola Cup
  6. Appended Report - Juventus Away 10.12.97

1 Ground Configuration

1.1 The configuration of Old Trafford's seating plan is a major concern for a large proportion of Manchester United's supporters. IMUSA propose that stadiums should have specified areas for all categories of fans, in much the same way that families have been successfully been catered for since the implementation of family stands in the early 1980's.

1.2 There are several different categories of fans that can be sub-divided and defined in many ways. Executive facilities and family facilities are available at every major club. The remainder of supporters firstly includes those who's main enjoyment of football is derived from actively encouraging their team in a vocal and visual manner. The other element of fans are those that prefer to watch and join in chanting and singing etc. occasionally. This isn't to say both groups are mutually exclusive, but most supporters could easily define their own personal preference.

1.3 At the present time, most clubs with all seater stadiums do not differentiate between these two types of supporters. They are categorised as one, as they were when terracing was available. When standing on a terrace supporters could easily move to the area of the ground in which they felt most comfortable, to areas where the fans they were surrounded by would behave in a similar manner. This is no longer the case as fans have to accept tickets wherever they can get them, as many matches, especially for the 'big clubs' are sold out. Consequently, there is a wide spectrum of the fan base in every section. Generally, this can lead to disharmony at the least, and increasingly frequently, genuine tension and ill feeling between supporters of the same team.

1.4 Certainly, the ideal way to resolve these problems would be the return of standing accommodation to all stadiums. This is an issue that the Labour Party stressed that it would address if and when it became a Government. IMUSA hope that the Labour Party investigate the possibility that safe standing accommodation could return to our stadiums. Given that the remaining terracing in Leagues 2 and 3 prove that it is not terracing per se that is dangerous but the capacity of a standing section. IMUSA feel an in-depth study and feasibility survey should be a major recommendation from the Football Taskforce.

1.5 Should the return to terracing prove a long term objective, IMUSA propose that the Football Taskforce should participate in dialogue between supporters' groups and clubs, regarding the configuration of the seating sections. At Old Trafford, there are many problems created by different types of fans being seated in the same sections.

1.6 A long established aim of IMUSA is to create a singing section of the ground for those supporters who wish to participate fully in creating a noisy atmosphere. However, it appears that the administration at Old Trafford are reluctant to implement such a scheme as they believe the behaviour associated with such fans, such as persistent standing could lead to the removal of the safety certificate and closure of certain sections of the ground.

1.7 The Football Taskforce could clarify the legal situation of lenient stewarding towards singing sections, establish on whose authority such matters rest and ease the clubs fears that the parts of ground are not under a realistic threat of closure if the stewarding and security took a more liberal approach. In return, IMUSA feel this would result in a fall in tension between different types of supporters and actually lead to a fall in the number of complaints made to the club in regard to the behaviour of individual supporters. These problems are replicated throughout the country, wherever supporters are allocated seats not necessarily where they would prefer to sit.

1.8 In general, IMUSA would like to see a more structured approach to the seating configuration. This would allow subsections of supporters groups to be provided for.

1.9 To further improve atmosphere at matches and to allow greater choice for supporters, certain sections of seating could be left unreserved, so fans could choose where to sit and who to sit next to within that area of the ground. Once again, this would lead to a reduction in friction between fans and reduce friction between fans and stewards/security. Experts in the field of crowd control estimate that such arrangements would lead to a 10% reduction in capacity in such areas.

1.10 The implementation of pay-on the-day admission to matches would also increase the choices for supporters. This would allow certain groups the opportunity of attending matches, where previously they had effectively been excluded. Many supporters lack the facilities, especially young fans; to purchase tickets weeks in advance of the game. Credit cards and cheque books are not available to many young supporters, so pay-on the-day admission would allow these fans the chance to see their team play. Obviously, such schemes may have to be abandoned for fixtures where demand may be so high as to create a safety risk outside, but for many fixtures such schemes should be considered by clubs and encouraged by the Football Taskforce in the best interest of all supporters.

1.11 The decrease in young supporters attending matches could also be reversed by a reduction in junior admission prices. Such prices should be set at approximately half the full admission price, available in all sections of the stadium, to supporters of both teams and extended to include 16-18 year olds. IMUSA feel the extension to such an age range is vitally important, many fans are being lost to the game within this range as full admission prices are beyond their budgets. The Football Taskforce's role would be to recommend the standardising of such measures throughout the country, so that no one club could gain a financial advantage over competitors by not adopting such measures.

1.12 IMUSA propose that the regulation of stewards and security is now urgently required as the number of incidents involving aggressive security is on the increase. Security staff at Old Trafford are unaccountable as the Club employ an outside company. They do not have name badges or identification numbers and cannot be identified in any manner accept visually. IMUSA feel a code of conduct and stringent training should be implemented for such staff to stop the documented abuse of power that has been witnessed. In addition, the Club should ensure supporters are informed of their rights concerning the actions of such security staff, as it appears to be a grey area for many fans. A properly administered scheme should have in built appeals procedures allowing supporters a right of appeal against any unfair actions. Such an appeals system would build supporter confidence in a club's crowd control methods.

1.13 To summarise, IMUSA feel all these issues are interconnected and require direction from an independent body to mediate between the club and fans. It is also felt that most of these problems could be alleviated by an increase in capacity. Obviously, the return of standing accommodation would increase capacity and therefore it would solve many problems between supporters, security and the club. It is hard to envisage how capacities could be increased across the nation at such a low cost, especially as many stadiums are enclosed by housing, roads and other companies etc. Standing accommodation will solve many problems and hopefully not create any new ones. The time is ripe for a thorough review of football in England post-Taylor.

2 Pricing Policy

2.1 Ticket prices have risen out of all proportion to inflation and wage increases during the past seven years. Prices have risen across the country, yet such is the popularity of football at the moment, attendances continue to rise.

2.2 However, this doesn't mean rapidly rising prices do not create problems. Many working class or young fans find themselves squeezed out of the game, as they can no longer find the admission money, several weeks in advance of the match.

2.3 Any pricing policy must be investigated by an independent national body, which must include supporter representation. The Football Taskforce seems to be the obvious body to co-ordinate and pressure all clubs into a fairer pricing policy.

2.4 IMUSA would like to see prices for Manchester United fixtures linked to the retail price index or to salary and wage rises. As stated such a scheme would prove infeasible for just Manchester United, so IMUSA suggest all clubs could agree an informal formula to link admission prices to inflation or regional inflation.

2.5 A large proportion of supporters are now season ticket holders and are required to pay for their tickets in one instalment, usually at the end of the season. This causes a problem for the less affluent fan, but clubs prefer payment in advance for many reasons. The obvious solution is credit agencies that provide the initial outlay, and are paid interest in return. As season ticket payments offer low risk (season tickets can be reclaimed) it is reasonable to suggest relatively low interest should be charged. IMUSA recommend there should be an approved list of credit agencies the clubs could and should accept supporters using. The clubs have nothing to lose yet many refuse, including MUFC, to allow such agencies, as they see nothing to gain. As the supporters would be given increased choice via credit agencies, clubs could be influenced to accept credit payments for season tickets, rather than forcing fans to pay in a single instalment or use expensive credit cards.

3 Away Fixtures and Ticket Allocation

3.1 There is currently a recommendation that roughly 10% of capacity should be provided for visiting fans. This should be become mandatory and a possible increase to 15%, as away allocations are usually full to capacity, when home sections are often not. The 10% should be enforced vigorously, should the visiting supporters wish to accept their full entitlement.

3.2 IMUSA believe away tickets should be distributed to those fans that travel most regularly to support the team. In short, when tickets are in high demand, preference should be given to those who travel away most frequently. Although obviously a matter for individual clubs to negotiate with their own supporters, the general principle should be established.

3.3 Ticket prices quite often discriminate against away fans. Away fans must be charged the same price as home fans for equivalent facilities. This should be mandatory, with penalties for those not abiding by this rule. Additionally concessionary prices for juniors and OAPs must be enforced.

3.4 Many clubs categorise their fixtures as A, B, and C fixtures etc. Away fans should be charged at a single rate, the average at a single rate, the average of the bands applied to home fans. Although Manchester United at home may be an attractive fixture for Southampton fans, why should Manchester United fans have to pay more than Coventry fans to watch their team play away at Southampton. This pricing policy discriminates against supporters of large and/or successful clubs.

3.5 Moves should be made to offer visiting fans a choice of seating. All to frequently they receive the worst seats in the ground, and pay more for the privilege. As home supporters have 90% of capacity to choose from, the 10% of fans supporting the visiting team should be offered average seating if it is infeasible to offer them varying quality seats.

4 European Travel

4.1 There are several recommendations and laws relating to European away fixtures that seem to be ignored.

4.2 The level of ticket allocation seems to be arbitrary when the implications of not issuing enough tickets to away fans is far greater than domestic away fixtures. Many fans are forced to make travel plans before they know they have been able to obtain a match ticket. If they are not allocated a ticket they are left with the choice of losing their deposit for their travel costs, or travelling without a ticket inevitably, a proportion of fans will travel without tickets. Therefore, tickets should be allocated with the emphasis on satisfying demand for tickets from away fans. Obviously this would have to be reciprocated by English clubs where the need arises.

4.3 The distribution of tickets may be in contravention of European law. If a club, by way of its distribution of tickets, promotes its own travel company, ahead of the competition, surely this is against European competition law. IMUSA believe tickets should be allocated irrespective of which travel company the individual fan chooses to use. The right to choose must be protected.

4.4 The price level of tickets for European away matches also causes concern. The principle established in Britain, that away fans should be charged the same for comparative facilities, as home fans should be extended to European competitions. As Manchester United fans we have been charged up to four times the price of home fans at some European away fixtures.

4.5 Ground safety has become an issue for many European away matches. As the highest profile clubs compete for large amounts of money, surely ground safety should be enforced to a standard similar to those in the Taylor Report. Similarly policing and stewarding needs to be improved, via increased communication between authorities to erase confusion that so often leads to violence.

4.6 Civil rights issues have been given much publicity, but most travelling supporters do not know what rights they have. A guide explaining what the police and stewards are legally allowed to do would help many fans. It could also include what rights you have should you be arrested, and what help is available to you and how to get it.

4.7 The N.C.I.S. database may be a great help to police forces domestically, but its use should be monitored more closely for offences alleged to have occurred abroad. There have been numerous instances of supporters being deported for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any information on the database should not be used against fans (i.e. to stop them travelling) unless there are genuine reasons, such as prosecutions against them. There is a need for a properly administered appeals procedure for supporters who feel they have been wrongly included on any 'black list'.

5 Coca Cola Cup

5.1 Fan's opinion towards the Coca-Cola Cup could be expressed better through a central body. It is generally felt that the Coca-Cola Cup is an inferior competition to the Premier League and FA Cup, yet admission prices do not reflect this. In terms of prices, the Coca-Cola Cup should have lower admission prices if it is to hold any interest amongst the supporters of the clubs qualifying for Europe.

5.2 Most Manchester United fans agree that the Coca-Cola Cup still has too many games. Semi-Finals should consist of one leg to reduce the number of games a club would need to play to get to the Final.

5.3 Most IMUSA members feel that the Coca-Cola Cup should finish before the quarter-final stages of the European competitions begin. There is no reason it can't finish before Christmas as in Scotland.

Appendix: Juventus away 10.12.97

Introduction

This is a proactive report, produced in an attempt to avoid any potential problems for Manchester United fans travelling in Europe and particularly to Turin for the forthcoming Champions League fixture against Juventus on 10th December 1997.

Ticket Allocation

The desire to see your team play in Europe is a very real one for many football fans, a desire only satisfied for the few. We are fortunate as supporters of MUFC to have had a great many opportunities to travel abroad to watch the team play. This past experience has increased our desire yet further, combined with the improvements in international travel making the trip more readily available.

Manchester United Football Club control the distribution of all official tickets for European away fixtures. From time to time, they choose to allocate tickets to favoured travel companies. A supporter wishing to travel to see MUFC play abroad must apply to the Club for an 'official' ticket in advance of the fixture or one of the aforementioned 'independent' travel companies.

Often this distribution method, or ballot, is held so close to the date of the game that it is impossible for fans to make their own travel arrangements. For the recent game against Feynoord success, or otherwise, in the ballot was only revealed a few days prior to the game. Leaving many fans with ferry/plane tickets booked but no tickets.

Experience of booking any type of foreign travel will bear witness to the fact that, unless reservations are made early, travel and accommodation become either impossible to secure or prohibitively expensive. Such knowledge and past experience of this ticket ballot scheme has led to fans taking one of the following courses of action:

  • Book travel arrangements for the game well in advance of any knowledge of being able to obtain a ticket
  • Pay the asking price demanded of the Club on the 'Official Trip'
  • Go with an independent tour operator who promises that tickets will be made available even if they are not in the 'official MUFC allocation'
  • Make your own way to the game hoping to pick up a ticket on arrival

IMUSA document "Redprint for Change" states that when Manchester United fans are travelling abroad they often wish to spend some time in the country they are visiting. The one or two day trip on offer by the Club does not meet this legitimate desire, necessitating the need for independent arrangements to be made.

In the last two years MUFC have released an increasing number of tickets to independent travellers and for this they are to be applauded. Their actions compare well to those of other English clubs in Europe this season. For example, Newcastle United where the recent trip to Barcelona was described by some as 'a glorified school trip'.

However, arrangements could be improved still further, reducing the potential for supporters arriving abroad to see a match without tickets. Manchester United fans abroad should be trusted as they have surely earned that trust by their good behaviour in recent years.

The allocation of tickets should be made as soon as possible after the draw for the next round is made. This would be assisted if UEFA were to ask clubs to indicate in advance of the draw how many tickets they will make available to travelling fans. Immediately on completion of the draw opposing teams would be able to make arrangements for the allocation proposed and speed up the distribution of tickets accordingly.

Additionally, UEFA must recognise that English club sides take more fans to away fixtures than most other competing nations and ensure that accommodation is sought accordingly at stadiums where English sides are scheduled to play.

For MUFC, once the draw is announced, arrangements could be set in place to distribute tickets to members making an application. This should be conducted on a first come first served basis. The only discriminating factor to be considered in the event of demand exceeding supply should be the individual member's previous record of travel. e.g. those travelling to more fixtures gain greater priority. Certainly no favouritism should be given to fans simply for holding executive facilities over and above those of ordinary members.

The earliest possible notification that a member has been allocated a ticket in the distribution would allow fans to then make their travel arrangements - with the 'official trip' or otherwise. No tickets need be distributed until nearer to the game but fans could book travel and accommodation secure in the knowledge that they had a ticket. The Ticket Office could, as now only hand out tickets when the member produces 'bona fide' travel documents. Any failure to collect tickets by this method would render the application invalid with the resultant ticket going to a reserve list of members. This method recognises the desire of the club to maintain some element of control over the final usage of the ticket whilst meeting the needs of the supporter

Ticket Prices

In our experience, tickets for European away matches are nearly always substantially cheaper for home fans than for Manchester United fans. It seems ironic that for the forthcoming match in Turin, Manchester United fans are being charged 14.00 but last year we were charged 30.00. We believe that this is as a result of pressure from organisations such as IMUSA and now hope that ALL European clubs follow this example from Juventus.

Police

In light of the recent England v Italy match in Rome and our own experiences in Turin last year, Manchester United fans have severe reservations about Police treatment on arrival in Turin. IMUSA believe that Manchester United F.C. should, as a matter of urgency, seek Ber assurances from the Turin Police and Authorities. We believe that travelling Manchester United fans should be treated the same as other tourists and not like some kind of third class citizen.

"Stop & search" for items like keys and coins should only be done if applied to ALL fans from both clubs. We recommend that IMUSA representatives be present at all discussions that take place prior to any European away fixture at Club, FA and UEFA levels. This course of action would enable the relevant decision makers to fully understand the actual travelling fans experiences and viewpoint. It is our conviction that this involvement could help to prevent incidents such as in Turin 96, Porto 97 and Rome 97 (England).

Manchester United F.C. Security & Stewarding

For fans travelling on official club trips, it is Club policy that stewarding is done by Manchester United's own private security firm. Whilst on first impression, this seems to give fans a degree of security (MUFC security guards are everywhere when fans arrive at Manchester Airport), the reality is that when fans arrive on foreign soil the security we take with us have no authority and are both powerless and unwilling to help alleviate any of the many problems sometimes faced by fans e.g. Police brutality etc. Indeed their only duty seems to be the distribution of tickets, which, as in the case of our recent trip to Rotterdam was done on our way to board the plane in Manchester - they could have, and may as well have, gone home once that task was completed. IMUSA accept the need for stewarding but it should be done with more authority and conviction on reaching our destination.

Additionally fans must be kept informed at all times of decisions taken which affect them and their safety. It is unacceptable for announcements to be made without there being a translation into the language of the visiting teams. e.g. At Juventus last season no announcements were made in English at all.

Conclusions

  1. Manchester United F.C. to improve the distribution of tickets to members
  2. UEFA to ensure parity of ticket prices to home and away fans
  3. Relevant authorities in England to seek firm assurances from Turin Police
  4. Stewards (not security guards) to be given more responsibility by host clubs
  5. UEFA to ensure that all announcements to supporters be bi-lingual. If the host club fails to provide an English interpreter for United's travelling support then MUFC will do so
  6. IMUSA representatives to be involved, at the earliest possible stage, in planning for all European away matches

Whilst we well understand the fears that foreign Police and authorities may have with the vast number of British football supporters visiting their shores, we can not condone the heavy handed attitudes that have become so prevalent during such visits. We believe with better dialogue between all concerned parties, some of the past troubles, and indeed tragedies could well have been avoided.

 


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