Improving Match Atmosphere at Old
By Julian Spencer and Phil Holt for the IMUSA Committee
Submitted for consideration to Manchester United PLC
West Stand Tier 2
Major Stadium Reconfiguration
This report has been drafted as a result of a belief amongst Manchester United
supporters that the poor atmosphere at Old Trafford must be addressed as a matter
of urgency. It is an issue that has been prevalent amongst supporters' concerns,
and central to the agenda of IMUSA, for several years. Recently, both the manager
and captain of the club have become so frustrated with the lack of atmosphere, that
they have been forced to bring the issue into the public domain. Undoubtedly, this
situation is unacceptable.
IMUSA acknowledges that for several years the redeveloping of Old Trafford may
have hindered the opportunity to provide an ideal configuration of the ground. IMUSA
believes that with no rebuilding planned for the foreseeable future, that now is an
ideal opportunity to reconfigure the ground and create an atmosphere which players
and fans can be proud of.
As such, the report will ostensibly deal with the configuration of the ground,
ticketing issues, and the role of the stewarding of supporters. IMUSA has supported
the introduction of safe terracing, a development that we believe would greatly enhance
the atmosphere in the ground. However this is not a subject that will be addressed
in this report, which will instead focus on proposals that can be achieved in the
short term, ideally before the commencement of season 2001-2002.
We hope that the areas of concern will be acknowledged by the board, and that the
proposals be implemented so that Old Trafford will once again become famous for its
passion, noise and verve.
2. West Stand Tier Two
IMUSA congratulates the club for having listened to the supporters and created
the 'fanzone' in Tier two of the Stretford End. Whilst we believe that all supporters
should feel encouraged to vocally support the team, in all parts of the stadium, IMUSA
welcomes the initiative to create a 'popular-end' in West Stand Tier 2 (WST2.) We
appreciate that the venture is still in its infancy, having only been implemented
at the start of season 2000-2001. However, from the experiences of our members that
are located in this stand, it is clear that significant improvements are required
so that this particular section of the ground can continue the progress that has been
One of the repeated comments made about WST2 is that despite the atmosphere appearing
to be improved within the section, the noise cannot be heard by the rest of the ground
and subsequently the players. IMUSA has proposals that will deal with the expansion
of this area, that are covered in section 4 below; thus this section will focus on,
and make proposals for, WST2 as its own entity.
In the first instance IMUSA would urge the club to investigate the acoustics of
the section in order to ascertain whether any improvements can be made to the filtration
of sound to the rest of the ground. The benefits of this are two-fold. Firstly, the
improvement in atmosphere would be more notable to all concerned, resulting in a greater
matchday experience for all and the obvious support given to the team. Secondly,
the noise created in this section should then act as a trigger to other supporters
in other sections of the ground creating a stadium wide atmosphere.
2.2: Defining WST2
The second proposal IMUSA believes is central to the success of WST2. It is IMUSA's
opinion that the nature of this section should be advertised widely; as an area that
is specifically reserved for the more active members of United's support. This should
be publicised in all future renewals of season tickets and LMTBs, to both inhabitants
of WST2 and elsewhere, and also in any information relating to applications for day
tickets. Many supporters have complained that attempts to create a better atmosphere
in WST2 have been thwarted by a lack of like-minded supporters around them. A clearer
definition of WST2 would help eradicate this, whilst also encouraging our more vocal
support to join this section.
IMUSA would also urge the club to put the mechanics in place to allow supporters
willing to join this section next season to apply with existing ticket holders. A
great number of supporters have expressed an interest in joining this section but
are hesitant in giving up their seat elsewhere to be sat on their own in a new stand.
Instead we would propose that they be allowed to join groups of other supporters,
and similarly existing ticket holders in WST2 should be allowed to congregate.
2.3: Seat Allocation
Two methods are proposed to assist like-minded supporters to sit together:
A method of block applications, allowing groups of friends to make block applications
The introduction of unreserved seating areas. Under this second proposal it
is envisaged that Season Ticket or LMTB holders will be able to self-select for a
block of seats allocated to more 'active' supporters who wish to create an atmosphere
and get behind the team from whistle to whistle.
IMUSA envisages that at least one whole block of seats, or preferably the front
section of a number of adjacent blocks, be allocated as unreserved seats. The club
would issue season ticket and LMTBs for these sections in the normal manner except
that the 'book' would only be allocated for a designated block of seats as opposed
to a specific seat as at present. At the turnstile the holder of the LMTB or Season
Ticket would hand over the relevant match voucher and then be handed a ticket in return
on which would be printed the allocated seat number.
Additional benefits of the unreserved seating system:
Groups of friends who wish to sit together arrive together
Fans arriving and entering the stadium earlier to obtain the best seats with
the consequential safety implications.
Fans arriving earlier allows the atmosphere to build before kick off.
Ease the issuing of season tickets and LMTBs as groups of individuals can be
allocated a block as opposed to a specific seat.
Without a system of seat allocation problems of 'orphaned seats' may occur as has
been witnessed with unreserved seating experiments at other grounds. IMUSA believes
that by using the methods of seat allocation similar to those used at Old Trafford
prior to the stadium becoming all-seater such problems would be avoidable.
IMUSA recognises that some fans cannot afford the initial outlay for a season ticket
or LMTB. This problem is particularly acute for younger supporters who may not have
access to cheque books or credit card facilities it is therefore recommended that
some seats in the unreserved blocks be allocated as junior 'day tickets' that are
applied for on a match by match basis.
2.4: Catering Facilities
To encourage fans to enter the stadium earlier the facilities and catering on offer
on the concourse under the stands must be improved. IMUSA would recommend a sample
survey of fans using this section of the ground to ascertain their needs.
IMUSA has conducted its own, admittedly, unscientific survey and the following
are suggested as a starting point:
Quicker service, using more sophisticated methods than a member of staff opening
a can and pouring a drink into a beaker.
A wider selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including different
beers and cold drinks.
A wider selection of hot and cold food.
Provision of shelves on which to place a drink or food
A simple survey of fans would be able to gain a greater insight into their needs
and if conducted in this one section of the stadium then any changes to catering provision
could be tried and tested before being rolled out elsewhere.
Many fans congregate in the pubs and clubs in the locale in order to meet with
friends and family who may be sat in different parts of the ground. It makes sense
from the club's point of view if this extra catering custom could be encouraged to
enter the stadium earlier and spend their money within the ground. Without vast improvements
in the facilities on offer and the ability for friends to transfer to the same stand
this will not be possible.
Allow large pockets of supporters across the whole of the stand, by means of
block applications and unreserved seating, and widely advertise this option in advance
of renewals being sent out.
Reserve any day tickets for an age bracket such as U-18 and the introduction
of junior LMTB/Saeson Tickets in the 'popular end' . This would also benefit from
encouraging the next generation of United's support to be more vocal in their support.
Improved catering facilities
IMUSA believes that these configuration proposals, coupled with an investigation
into the acoustics of the stand and a clearer advertised definition of its nature,
would greatly improve the atmosphere within the popular end.
IMUSA would be willing to aid the club should any survey or research of fans'
opinions be required.
3. Major Stadium Reconfiguration
As stated in the previous section, IMUSA congratulates the club for the introduction
of the 'popular-end' area in WST2, and wishes to contribute to its success. In addition
to the recommendations already made in section 2, IMUSA believes that this principle
should be extended to the entire West Stand, as soon as is practical. This section
aims to highlight the need for this initiative, and to provide details of a design
that is acceptable and beneficial to all parties concerned.
Amongst supporters' reservations regarding WST2, is that the distance from the
pitch and the rest of the stadium dilutes the atmosphere-generating effect of the
'popular-end.' In particular, IMUSA believes that the presence of both executive
and family facilities in the lower tier have an adverse effect on attempts to resurrect
atmosphere in the West Stand. Detailed below is a package of proposals advocated
by IMUSA as resolutions to this issue:
3.1: Relocation of the Family
IMUSA believes that relocating the Family stand would not only release a large
number of seats in the West Stand for active supporters, but also allow the Club to
capitalise on a commercial opportunity.
It is proposed that family facilities be relocated to the East Stand second tier.
IMUSA suggests that those using the family have a greater propensity to frequent
the Megastore and that closer proximity to the store would induce a positive commercial
3.2: Relocation of Corporate Seats
IMUSA suggests that the current positioning of executive seats in the West Stand
is an anomalous location for premium facilities. Not only does this dilute the atmosphere
generated within the stand, but results in a commercially sub-optimal outcome. IMUSA
proposes that these seats be relocated to a more premium location, such as in North
Stand Tier 2. This would allow the Club to achieve synergies with the existing corporate
facilities within that stand, and also to generate more revenue per seat. We believe
that improvements and additions to the executive facilities in the North Stand should
be undertaken to enable these extra seats to be absorbed.
The subsequently vacant executive the facilities under the Stretford End could
be turned into a club for the use for supporters for functions pre and post-match
as well as for non match day events.
IMUSA recommend that the above package of proposals be implemented in its entirety
as soon as practicable.
Whilst we believe that to provide a large 'popular end' occupying one end of
the stadium would give rise to a significant improvement in the atmosphere at Old
Trafford in time we would also like to see the proposal of unreserved seating sections
extended to other parts of the ground.
Our final recommendation is that the new end be renamed "Stretford End"
in keeping with the wishes of our members and to mark the return of a permanent base
for enthusiastic support.
4. Stewarding and Security
In principle IMUSA recognises the need for the Club to enforce its Ground Regulations
(GRs) as part of its entertainment license. In addition, it is appreciated that the
presence of a private security firm reduces the need for policing inside the stadium.
However, the actions of Special Projects Security (SPS) have long caused offence
amongst supporters, and have frequently been the source of unnecessary conflict between
the Club and fans. The majority of our members perceive SPS as confrontational; this
is substantiated by numerous complaints of heavy-handed and over-zealous behaviour.
This report does not deal with individual incidents, but the fact that many supporters
feel this way is itself a problem, which must be addressed.
IMUSA believes that many supporters feel intimidated by SPS officers, and that
this stifles attempts to start and join in with songs. There is a perception that
any enthusiasm will be misinterpreted by SPS, resulting in possible ejection.
IMUSA recommends that the Club should implement a strategy that better reconciles
the wishes of vocal supporters with the need to enforce GRs. The following measures
are proposed to improve this relationship.
4.1: Lower-Profile Role
SPS officers should take a less prominent role within the stands, on call rather
than on view. Ordinary match stewards should always be the first stage in response
to breaches of GRs.
4.2: SPS Charter
A charter should be implemented so that supporters know what to expect from SPS,
and similarly, clarification of exactly what behaviour is deemed unacceptable. In
order to restore trust and confidence, this should include a policy to discipline
SPS officers when they breach this charter or use inappropriate tactics.
IMUSA would urge the club to consider and implement the proposals outlined in this
report, as a failure to address the issue of atmosphere has frequently been the source
of unnecessary conflict in recent years.
Review the acoustics, definition, and configuration of WST2.
Seriously consider the extension of the WST2 principles into the whole West
Examine the role of stewarding and security and their effects on atmosphere.
Canvas the opinion of supporters and promote relocation possibilities well
in advance of season ticket renewals for season 2001-2002.
IMUSA believe that implementation of the above, as detailed in this report, would
make a substantial contribution to the improvement of match atmosphere at Old Trafford.
We believe this would be beneficial for all supporters, the players, and the club.