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THE RED ARMY - PROPOSAL TO IMPROVE THE ATMOSPHERE INSIDE OLD TRAFFORD

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THE RED ARMY Proposal

27th February 2019

 

 

This document is an abridged version of an earlier proposal which was submitted via the Fans’ Forum for consideration in early 2018. Following recent events it is has been revised and presented to Collette Roche Manchester United COO, Charlie Brooks  Director of Communications, Sam Kelleher Head of Ticketing & Membership, Ian Sterling ISLO & Vice Chair of MUST and Chas Banks Secretary of MUDSA.

 

Introduction

The Red Army are an independent group of ST holders with a single aim - return the once famous atmosphere to Old Trafford. We have 3400+ members with representation throughout every stand within Old Trafford.

Our group is led by supporters who have a thorough understanding of the traditional values of United’s match going fan-base and have been following United, home and away, since the 70s. Right at the heart of every decision the group have made has been the importance of doing things ‘the United way’ and remaining true to the traditions and values of our support.

 

This document

The information contained within this document should be considered as recommendations from independent ‘atmosphere’ consultants. Whilst some of these may require investment or a change in mind-set from the Club, it should be understood that failing to act on them will almost certainly see any chance of reintroducing the atmosphere back into Old Trafford disappear permanently.

 

Long Term Objective

Return Old Trafford’s once world famous atmosphere and reclaim its reputation of being the loudest stadium in Britain.

 

We believe that there is a real opportunity for Manchester United to prove yet again that they are ahead of the opposition when it comes to addressing the question of how to improve the atmosphere at Premier League stadiums.

 

This proposal contains our recommendations to the club based on the following:

  • Our in-depth experience and understanding of Manchester United fan culture

  • Management of United Road and L-Stand atmosphere ‘trials’

  • Canvassing of our members and thousands of other Manchester United supporters

  • Lengthy communications with MUDSA, MUST, UWS and Red news

  • Reviewing feedback from players, fans, journalists and supporters who’ve experienced the impact we’ve had upon the atmosphere inside Old Trafford

Current Status

The Red Army has managed United Road and L Stand on numerous occasions.

The results have been extremely positive and include:

  • Improved atmosphere in United Road, J Stand and throughout Old Trafford

  • Improved match-day experience for thousands of people who can now stand next to their friends inside Old Trafford. Over 750 ST holders responded to our request for feedback. The Feedback was 100% positive with particular emphasis on the positive impact that using L Stand and standing with friends as part of a community has had on our members’ enjoyment.

  • Many have publicly stated they were preparing to give up their season tickets due to the funereal like atmosphere and draconian measures in the treatment of home supporters. The latter, unfortunately, still exist in most parts of the stadium outside of TRA managed areas.

  • The Red Army have demonstrated that they understand how the atmosphere can be improved and that they are capable of managing the large and ever-growing number of fans who wish to be involved.

 

Problem Statement

  • Visiting supporters are allocated the acoustically superior area of the stadium (L stand)

  • Visiting supports enjoy an advantage over home supporters and team due to their location

  • Visiting teams enjoy an advantage over the home team as a direct result of  the location of their supporters

  • Visiting supporters are positioned directly behind our disabled supporters and, whilst actual violence may be relatively rare, the fear and anxiety that the threat of this causes is very real and felt at most games by many supporters in that section.

  • TRA are currently spread throughout the stadium reducing our impact on the atmosphere.

 

Phase 1 (2019/2020 Season)

  • Establish a temporary vocal TRA presence at both ends of the stadium

  • TRA to populate upwards of 1200 seats within Stretford End Right Side (SERS)

  • TRA to populate up to 1000 seats within Utd Rd

  • All visiting European supporters to be relocated to ET2

  • TRA to populate L Stand for all European fixtures

  • TRA to populate L Stand for all domestic Cup games whenever possible (numbers allowing)

 

Phase 2 (2020/2021 Season onward)

  • Establish a permanent vocal TRA presence at both ends of the stadium

  • Establish a permanent vocal TRA presence on either side of the visiting supporters at the east end of the stadium (L Stand / Utd Rd)

  • Relocate visiting supporters into East Stand Tier 2 (excludes visiting supporters in E233)

  • TRA to inhabit L-Stand permanently

  • Expand TRA areas to populate the entire T1 of the Stretford End with vocal supporters

  • TRA to populate Utd Road with vocal supporters

 

The benefits of using L Stand are

  • The low roof and acoustics ensure the noise is retained far more than any other area inside the stadium. The noise also transfers well to other areas of the stadium and onto the pitch. This why 3000 fans in this section often sound much louder than 14,000 on the Stretford End

  • The interaction with away fans will help improve the atmosphere at that end of the stadium as was proven in each trial, particularly the Brighton and Reading games.

  • Safe segregation of visiting supporters is in our opinion easily achieved within ET2 / ET1

  • The risk of a flash-point at the Munich tunnel (a heavily congested area) is removed.

  • A much safer environment for home supporters, particularly our disabled supporters, who are in constant fear of assault and have had their pleas to relocate the visiting supporters ignored for many years.

  • Disabled supporters have contacted us to thanks us, many of them explaining that they felt part of the home support for the first time. This cannot be underestimated.

  • The proof of concept in L Stand for Sociedad, Brighton and Reading have been an incredible success. It’s the closest thing to United’s away support we’ve had and that is the benchmark.

  • A positive impact on the home team.

  • A corresponding negative impact on the visiting team.

  • Positive impact on home supporters.

  • The marketing of the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ actually becomes a reality as the club has an atmosphere to be proud of. The general perception is that United’s marketing spiel is a myth more aligned with Disney than a football club.

 

The benefits of using L Stand in conjunction with Utd Rd

Having two TRA populated vocal sections which are close enough to each other to spur each other on would provide a formidable atmosphere at the East end of the stadium which would easily dominate any attempts made by the visiting supporters to control the atmosphere. Such a loud atmosphere being generated by these two TRA areas would provide a huge lift to the rest of the East end of the stadium and consequently encourage the Stretford End to be even more vocal.

 

Why Stretford End T1 should be ‘reclaimed’ versus Stretford End T2

Stretford End T2 currently houses some of our most vocal supporters yet due to the poor acoustics of Old Trafford, their efforts often go largely unheard by the rest of the Stadium.

Relocating the most vocal supporters from T2 along with other TRA members into T1 would be a genuine step towards returning our once world famous atmosphere.

 

Season Tickets v Match Day Tickets

Having been party to the United Road trials and L Stand trials, and despite the positive impact on the match-day experience for those involved and the atmosphere, we feel another season of match-day tickets may be required to ensure we have the right people in any areas which we manage. During the season we will be actively observing those in the section (more prolifically than this season) in addition to the application data we hold on our system. One of the lessons learned from this season is that this process cannot be rushed if we are to avoid having another ‘J Stand’, which could see any chance of restoring the atmosphere inside Old Trafford disappear for good.

 

Visiting Supporters

  • Visiting supporters could be housed in ET2 - this has been tried and tested on many occasions – as well as in E233 (K-stand – the same block they get now). Safe segregation is easily achieved through the use of seat netting, the loss of a relatively small number of seats being made available to home supporters and a stewarding presence.  Structural changes may be required throughout the concourse and possibly a new turnstile. Visiting supporters would be closer to the coach park and away from the heavily congested area of the Munich tunnel which has proven to be a flash-point between rival supporters over recent seasons.

  • Additional netting could be installed for higher risk games in ET2.

  • All European fans should be located in ET2; All visiting League and FA Cup teams should be located in ET2 where allocation restrictions permit.

  • Visiting supporters would be moved further away from congested train station turnstiles.

  • Visiting wheelchair supporters could be placed directly below their own fans in E233.

 

 

Pitch-side legislation (Phase 2)

The Premier League’s new legislation regarding visiting supporters being ‘pitch-side’ has been introduced solely for the purpose of improving the atmosphere. To quote the Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore:

"It's about atmosphere, one of the unique things about our game, particularly in England, is the amount of away fans and the noise they create. When an away goal is scored, you want that atmosphere and interaction between the two sets of fans."

Positioning visiting supporters within ET2 and E233 would comply with these regulations as demonstrated by the L Stand trials.

 

Relocation of visiting supporters into East Stand T2 (Phase 2)

We estimate 2,200 seats would need to be made available to visiting supporters in ET2 with the balance being housed in the existing block of East Lower (E233).

Where a visiting team brings a lower number of supporters, Block E332 could be utilised by United supporters. Sufficient provisions for this could be made with regards to concourse divisions and facilities.

 

Summary

The above proposal outlines a positive solution with regards to the atmosphere for both visiting and away supporters. It meets the Premier League pitch-side legislation, improves the safety of supporters both outside and inside the stadium and significantly improves the safety and match day experience of United’s disabled supporters.

 

Addendum

PSG, 12TH February 2019

In the lead up to this game it was apparent that PSG supporters  would be bringing large drums into the stadium and, combined with them being allocated L Stand and adjoining seats and our Security team’s history of allowing visiting European supporters far more freedom in comparison with United supporters, it was obvious to us all that they would be presented with a huge advantage over our own supporters. In anticipation of this, on 11th January we submitted our concerns and recommendations. Unfortunately, no reply was forthcoming, on the day prior to the game we were informed that the drums would not be removed from the PSG supporters through fear or retaliation. Our own fears unfortunately proved to be entirely accurate and any attempts at generating an atmosphere were eventually drowned out by the incessant drumming.

Whilst this may not appear to be of any real significance, it is indicative of a lack of empathy with home supporters. Many disabled supporters contacted us directly after the PSG game asking us to campaign on their behalf to have visiting supporters moved into ET2, many cited the noise generated by drums and whistles as being unbearable, one lady in particular had to leave the stadium as a direct result due to her condition.

From a TRA perspective, it quickly became apparent that had the drums been refused access to the stadium, the noise being generated by the home supporters at the start of the match (one of the best in years) would have easily drowned out the visiting supporters. This has been widely viewed as a failure and missed opportunity by our members and fellow supporters throughout the stadium and is being directly attributed to TRA recommendations being ignored once again.