The bitter rivalry between English Premier League soccer clubs Manchester United and Liverpool had to be put on hold this afternoon after United fans protested in their thousands against the club’s American owners.
United is one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, with an estimated fan base of over one billion and a current Forbes valuation of $4.2B.
The match was scheduled to kick-off at United’s ground, Old Trafford at 1630 BST, but fans started protesting at 1400, with initially hundreds gathering, which then increased to several thousand.
Several hundred fans had already breached security at the ground and invaded the pitch to voice their concerns, with one fan throwing a lighted flare toward the Sky Sports commentary area, narrowly avoiding striking the presenters, who were commenting live, and which subsequently burnt a large hole in a tarpaulin below, (see video)
Under current Covid-19 laws in England, no fans are allowed in soccer stadiums as a general rule.
It is reported that some fans ran down the approach tunnel and breached into the dressing rooms, before police arrived and removed them, along with the fans on the pitch and those protesting outside.
Meanwhile, other fans had launched a protest outside the Lowry Hotel in Manchester, where the United team was preparing for the match. However, it must be stressed that the protests were largely peaceful, with men, women and children taking part.
WHAT’S BEHIND THE PROTESTS?
Manchester United has been fully-owned by Red Football since 2005. The company is owned by the American Glazer brothers, Avram, Joel and Bryan, who gradually upped their stake in the club.
Fans have had a long-standing issue with the Glazers as owners, believing their motive behind the ownership is based on financial profit and not the long-term wellbeing of the club.
The Glazers have, more than once, obtained huge loans against Manchester United’s assets, which has merely reasserted the fan’s belief in the fact that the Glazers’ motive is purely financially based.
In April this year, the Glazers’ agreed to sign up for a breakaway ‘European Super League’, along with 6 other major English clubs, including Liverpool, (also American-owned), Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham.
This was agreed to by the owners without any consultation with either the coaches or fans and was viewed as purely a monetary decision.
This was the final straw for many fans, who united together with public pressure to bring the whole project to a halt within 3 days.
All the ‘Big Six’ sent social media messages of apology to their fans after the disastrous decision, but this was a step too far for the long-complaining Manchester United fans.
SO, WHAT NOW?
This crucial match, right toward the end of the English soccer season is to be re-scheduled. There is currently no news as to when this will be. But it must be played, as both the Premier League champions in the form of Manchester City are waiting to be crowned, and the race for inclusion in next season’s European Champions League continues.
But equally, this won’t be the last you’ve heard from Manchester United fans until the Glazers’ have sold up and moved on.