Manchester United’s game against Liverpool has been postponed after about 200 fans broke into Old Trafford to protest against the Glazer family’s ownership of the club.
The fixture was scheduled to kick off at 16:30 BST on Sunday.
“This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities,” said the Premier League.
Talks will now take place about re-arranging the game.
Fans had gathered outside the ground and scores of green and gold flares – the colours of United’s first shirts when they were Newton Heath, and of the original anti-Glazer protests in 2010 – were set off at 14:00.
The protests follow United’s decision, along with five fellow Premier League clubs, to join the European Super League (ESL) last month, before subsequently all pulling out.
Supporters are currently not allowed into grounds because of the coronavirus pandemic but some United fans got on to the Old Trafford pitch to protest and, even though they were removed, some then made it back on to the grass later on.
“The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance,” added the Premier League, after calling the game off at just after 17:35.
“We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches.
“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.”
Both clubs had submitted their team line-ups for the hotly anticipated fixture but neither had left their hotels to go to the ground.
United are currently second in the Premier League and a Liverpool win on Sunday would have handed Manchester City the title for the third time in four seasons.
Serious clashes with police
BBC Sport has been told most of the protests were peaceful but that a minority engaged in significant disorder, putting other fans, staff and police at risk.
This included serious clashes with police around the entrance to the Munich tunnel.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest,” said United.
“However, we regret the disruption to the team and actions which put other fans, staff, and the police in danger.
“We thank the police for their support and will assist them in any subsequent investigations.”
Liverpool, who were also involved in the failed attempt to join the ESL, said they were in “full agreement” to postpone the game.
“It is our position that public safety must be the number one factor in any such decision, with the ability to provide a secure environment for the participants, staff and officials being a particular priority,” said the Anfield club.
“It was clearly not possible for this to be guaranteed due to a situation which escalated rapidly.”
Why are the protests taking place?
There has been a long-standing campaign against the Glazer family since the Americans’ controversial leveraged takeover of the club in 2005.
Recently, Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke to fans who entered the club’s training ground at Carrington to protest against the owners.
In the wake of the European Super League collapsing, United co-chairman Joel Glazer said the club “apologised unreservedly” but the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) said it had “zero trust in the owners”.
MUST added that Joel Glazer “and his family have shown time and again that their sole motivation is personal profit at the expense of our football club”.
What has been the fan reaction?
“It’s been pandemonium,” United Muppetiers podcaster Mike Parrott said at Old Trafford prior to the game being postponed.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. On one side, that’s how protests work in that you need to send a message, but it’s also not great.
“Breaking cameras, breaking glass and rushing the stadium, all these terrible things are not what Manchester United fans want to be associated with.
“They shouldn’t be doing it whatsoever. I don’t think this conveys a message that they want the 50+1 fan ownership, which was the original idea. It hasn’t really worked in my eyes.”
Another fan protesting at Old Trafford told BBC Sport: “When they [the Glazers] came in 2005, the club wasn’t in any debt, a few years later you’re talking £400m in debt.”You look at the stadium, it’s a beautiful stadium but there is rust, it’s falling apart and they just don’t care at all, there’s no communication with the fans.”They said they would communicate with the fans but last week there was a supporters’ community meeting, they didn’t go.”I think we are doing this in the best possible way.”
More to follow.
Source link BBC NEWS UK