Direct action is not everybody’s cup of tea. And there will have been many fans around the world who were disappointed not to get to watch Manchester United take on Liverpool.
Well, tough. Sunday’s protest was 16 years in the making, and yet came together in just under two weeks. And it showed that the voices of fans will continue to be heard, and not swept under the rug. We can go without a game for one weekend.
When the Glazer family took over in 2005, United fans warned against the debt-leveraged buyout which was about to take place. The football authorities turned a blind eye, as did the Government.
United fans have been ignored ever since by the Glazers, and the Government, until the owners were involved in a cartel group attempting to join a European Super League a fortnight ago.
These protests were not about the Super League. These protests were about the billions the Glazers have cost the club, the lack of communication, the lack of investment in Old Trafford, and the sense that the club is being used as a piggy bank for the owners to make money from a sport they do not appear to care about.
Other approaches have failed
United supporters protested in 2005, and got nowhere. Some fans even upped and left and formed a new club, FC United of Manchester.
Co-ordinated protests in 2010 did not amount to anything, and online protests only have limited impact. Sooner or later, the status quo always resumes, and you wonder if the Glazers, in their beach houses in Florida, even notice.
So it was time for supporters to try something different, and that’s what happened on Sunday.
Fans protested outside the team hotel, preventing the bus from travelling safely into Old Trafford, while supporters also managed to access the stadium en masse. The club and police failed completely and will be asking questions of each other.
Obviously we do not condone any violence and vandalism which may have taken place. That will be down to a handful of misguided individuals who may have simply gone a step too far.
The point of Sunday’s protest was to achieve disruption, and do it peacefully. Sky’s pundits, who were inside Old Trafford throughout, all told the broadcaster the protests had been good natured, and the majority of supporters left the stadium when directed to by police.
Did it work?
Yes. The maximum impact from the protest was to get the game postponed, and create global headlines.
United fans managed to do this. The protests were covered in every newspaper, and on every TV channel, and not just in the UK.
This was a global news story, with television schedules disrupted around the world, with one of the biggest matches in world football wiped off the schedule for the day. Broadcasters and advertisers will not have been pleased, and they should be in no doubt why it happened: the Glazers.
When a small group of supporters protested outside Carrington a fortnight ago, they carried a banner which said, ‘We decide when you play’. They were not kidding.
This was a case of United supporters showing the collective power that they have. It was a sign of how big, and engaged the fanbase is, and the strength of feeling against the Glazer family.
United fans had every right to take the action they did. Supporters up and down the country have been exploited for too long.
It’s time for the Glazers, and the football authorities to start listening. Sunday’s protest was the first of it’s kind in terms of managing to get a game postponed, and it may not be the last.
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