FOOTBALL: United we stand for our right to stand in new stands

It has not been a good week for Manchester United. Blackburn have drawn away almost beyond the horizon, Andrei Kancheslskis wants to go a bit further and disappear over Hadrian's Wall, Eric Cantona has metamorphosed into a PE teacher, and now their fans are getting uppity. Not, in the standard revolting fan way, with the chairman, the team, nor - Heaven forfend - with the manager, but with a new regulation which appeared in the small print of the match programme for their game against Arsenal.

"Standing up during play is an offence which is liable to lead to ejection," it read. During the match, several people, rising to their feet to express their affection for Andy Cole, to applaud the efforts of Brian McClair, to sing encouraging chants even, found themselves out of their seats permanently, on the wrong side of the stadium gates, dispatched thence by stewards in florescent Umbro-sponsored waistcoats. The ejected were not people running 11 rows to deliver abuse, nor were they uttering racist or threatening language; these were people doing something that has, until now, always been thought of as part of the fabric of attending a football game: they were getting on their feet to encourage their team. And they were not happy to be summarily removed.

"This restriction goes to the very essence of supporting a football team," said Peter Boyle, a renowned instigator of chants at United matches. "Alex Ferguson is constantly encouraging us to turn up the volume, yet faceless bureaucrats are now trying to prevent us doing it."

And it is not so easy chanting from a seated position, he reckons. So distressed was Boyle and other hard-core elements by this new assault on the civil rights of football supporters, that they leafletted the entire K Stand at Old Trafford before the game against Leeds last Sunday. At a pre-arranged signal midway through the second half, 4,500 people stood up and refused to sit down again, even though United failed to score.

At Highbury on Thursday, during the match against Sampdoria, thousands of fans, moved by the unexpected sight of a gripping game at the Arsenal, stood up as one. Immediately Tannoy instructions informed everyone to sit down or face ejection. The response was to remain upstanding for the rest of the game, chanting: "We'll stand in the Clock End."

"You see this is not a one-club issue," said Richard Kurt, of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, a body formed last month to combat the new rule, among other things. "Most weeks on Match of the Day you can hear Tannoy announcements telling people to sit down or get out."

At the Extraordinary General Meeting called on Thursday to discuss the board's plans to build a new Old Trafford stand, Martin Edwards, the chief executive, explained the ban was a safety measure. It was, it seems, justified as a post-Dublin, post-Simmons attempt to clean up the game, never mind that it interfered with the innocent pleasure of hundreds.

Richard Kurt, however, believes that the rule has a wider motive: it is part of a move to drive out the traditional young male supporter who is economically less attractive than the family or the businessman. If that is true, it has come at an opportune moment: when the capacity at Old Trafford is due to be cut during building work, meaning precious few tickets for anyone except those in possession of a season ticket and corporate entertaining facilities.

United have been in their current pre-eminence beyond reproach in the manner in which their merchandise machine - derided, pilloried and Hunter Daviesed though it might be - has subsidised ticket prices at Old Trafford: a season ticket for Spurs, for instance, costs twice one to watch United. Milton Friedman would regard this as crazy. United have the largest demand for seats, and should thus be able to charge the highest prices. Next season prices are going up to reflect scarcity value. The worry is among the less well-heeled that the resistance against economic logic can conveniently end with the rebuilding.

"It seems from the plans issued at the EGM that the new stand is to be largely accounted for by shifting existing season ticket holders and replacing their positions with premium-priced seating," Kurt said. "So they'll be no extra room for the ordinary fan. We're saying to the board, here's an opportunity to rebuild Old Trafford accommodating everyone, allow both ends to be occupied by those who want to stand up and chant and encourage the team, and put the day trippers and the executives at the sides. What they don't seem to appreciate is they need us just as much as the rich, because if things don't go well in the future, we'll be the ones who are still there, long after the bandwagon jumpers have gone elsewhere."

To further the battle against the new sit-down rule and the fight for more space at Old Trafford for the ordinary fan, Kurt's organisation has hired the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 24 April for a mass meeting: "All welcome," he says. It will be standing room only.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst/ Project Manager - Financial Services

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...

Reception Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Reception Teacher - Daily SupplyRandst...

Cover Supervisors needed in Cheshire & Shropshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Supervisor...

Welsh Medium Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits