You may have heard Fergie’s rant about the fans at Old Trafford for the 1-0 win over Birmingham on New Year’s Day — “That was the quietest I have heard the crowd, it was like a funeral,” Ferguson said, “The players need the crowd sometimes but the atmosphere inside the ground wasn’t good.”
But what most outlets didn’t report on was the response of Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, who argue it’s Old Trafford’s own draconian “safety” policies that are ruining the atmosphere. “‘You can’t stand up to make a noise,” IMUSA spokesman Colin Hendrie said. “If you try to stand up, you’ve got stewards who are ejecting you, they’re taking your season ticket away from you. It’s almost like a police state in a football ground now and if you do stand up, people will take your arm, put it behind the back of your neck and throw you out of the ground.”
This is not just a knee-jerk defense, but a campaign IMUSA have been working on for some time, and are specially focused on for 2008, as their website explains. IMUSA has called for safe standing areas to be introduced, and has pressed the club to check the stewards’ powers for ejecting fans for over-enthusiasm.
Hendrie concluded, “Under those circumstances, what atmosphere does he (Ferguson) want? The only atmosphere we’ve got is one where we’re a little bit frightened of losing £1,000 for the season ticket we’ve paid for.”
Photo credit: Derek Holtham