How can United fans make anti-Glazer stadium protests work?
Caught between songs about bonfires and a 6-0 win in the FA Cup, Manchester United’s supporters have some hard questions to ask themselves.
The anti-Glazer and anti-Ed Woodward sentiment has built around Old Trafford since January 11th when such songs were given their first airing in a while. United were 3-0 up on Norwich City in a Premier League match at that point. This is not just to do with poor performances.
The reasoning behind such feeling is obvious for the most part. But with online discussions now spreading into the matchday support, United fans need to decide on a few things before they start some kind of official protest.
What’s the end goal?
Ultimately, no protest can really work without an end goal. That applies to football, politics or society. It’s clear that the focus of this January wrath is upon the Glazers and Woodward but what do United fans want done about it? That has to be the first step, because there has to be a point at which they stop.
There are quite a few options here: Does it end when Woodward goes? Does it end when the Glazers go? Does it end when Solskjaer does? Or does it end when a Director of Football is appointed?
Some aims seem strange ones to protest. Demanding the appointment of a Director of Football would likely be the first time any club’s fans have done such a thing. On the other hand, demanding the owners leave would not.
Either way, whoever ‘leads’ this protest has to have an idea of when it stops or when it’s been successful. A solution must be offered or it will do no good.
There’s no immediate rush
And thus, United’s support has to accept that there is no imminent deadline by which they must form an organised protest. Chanting has been spontaneous, starting from The Red Army section of the Stretford End against Norwich, spreading to the whole stadium against Burnley and the away end at Prenton Park on Sunday.
For all of the valid reasons that the fans have to protest, the club aren’t in such dire straits that immediate action is required. United sit 5th in the Premier League and are yet to be knocked out of any other tournament. The club’s existence is not at threat.
So for a protest of some sort to work, it has to be well organised and that does take time. It has to involve a group of people coming together, sharing ideas and deciding the best one to take forward. Rushing something half-hearted in the next home game against Wolves on February 1st would be the wrong move.
It can’t take away from support of the team
This is an important point. The atmosphere at Old Trafford has greatly improved this season with the introduction of a regular section for The Red Army in the lower tier of the Stretford End.
Fans who stand in that section every week have voiced concerns about a protest affecting the support for the team.
Despite the poor performances of many at the club, most match-going fans agree that it’s not the players’ fault that the squad is thin and has received misdirected investment. In United’s time of strife, support has always become more vociferous than ever.
This is one of those times. Some have opposed the idea of a walk-out based on the fact that it would detract from the support of the team and manager.
Other options, to avoid walking out on the team halfway through a game, include a sit-in post-match, bringing back the green & gold scarves and continuing to direct chants but in a more organised way.
Or United fans could go for a ‘Looking For Eric’ style protest and all wear Eric Cantona masks while throwing toilet paper and flares onto the pitch.
It has to be run by match-going fans
Any protest that will have any kind of impact must be organised by match-going fans. That’s not to say that the feelings, of support for the team and anger at the ownership, of United’s global support are irrelevant. However, if someone’s going to organise a protest at the ground, they have to actually be there.
A few leaders of United’s support will have to work together for there to be any kind of serious impact. If they can meet together, share ideas and implement them, something might be done.
Ultimately, United fans can’t rush a half-hearted protest and expect anything to happen. They must look to leagues across the world of football where protests have actually made a difference and learn from them.
The Bundesliga would be a good place to start. One set of fans threw tennis balls onto the pitch to stop play. Fans discussing a protest, being creative and angry is a good thing. But it has to be done in the right way.
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