Football: You only sing when you're standing

Glenn Moore on the lack of lyrical support emanating from the seats

The Old Trafford concourse hummed to the sound of accents from Cork to Canberra, Scandinavians walked around with knapsacks taking photographs and home counties families emerged with bulging carrier bags from the megastore.

It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon in Manchester but, even by the standards of Manchester United Plc, the exchange at the taxi rank at Piccadilly station a few minutes earlier was extraordinary. A group of supporters, festooned with United leisure clothing, jumped in a taxi. "Where are we going?" inquired one. "Old Trafford." "Oh yeah, that's it."

This is not a "No Manchester United supporters come from Manchester" piece - quite a lot do. But it is undeniable that United's support is now drawn from all parts of Britain, Ireland and the world. United's marketing men may feel delighted with this but their manager is not. It has become increasingly obvious that the changing nature of matchday at Old Trafford is not benefiting the team.

The opening period of United's win over Arsenal on Saturday was conducted, like the matches with Chelsea and Fenerbahce, to a relative hush. At times Arsenal's 3,000 supporters outsung United's nominal 52,000. It was only when the public address asked supporters in K stand - the transplanted Stretford End - to sit down that United's fans were stirred. Their anger at the club's attitude developed into noisy support for the players.

Before the match Alex Ferguson had appealed for better support. "The growing number of hospitality packages has brought in a different type of audience," he wrote in the programme. "They sit and admire the ground and wait to be entertained just as if they were at a theatre or musical." After the match he added: "We have a lot of visitors, for whom it is a weekend holiday. That may be alright for some people but it is no use to me or the players."

United's problem may be more acute but it is not unique. In the recent Premiership fans' survey almost two-thirds of respondents said grounds were not as lively as a few years ago. Nearly 30 per cent thought they were "quieter than I would like".

Some clubs are making an attempt to remedy this. Highbury has had a 500- seat "singing" area all season but it does not appear to have made any difference. This is partly because it is in the North Bank, traditionally Arsenal's home end but, since redevelopment, superseded as such by the Clock End where seats are cheaper.

Redevelopment also killed off the Stretford End. Once a 20,000 terrace it is now 10,000 seats, half of which are allocated to executive seating or as a family stand.

"The more vociferous supporters have gradually moved to K stand," Johnny Flacks of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association said. It was the IMUSA which suggested to the club that they make tomorrow's European Champions' League tie against Juventus a "flag day". The club agreed and fans are to be allowed to bring flags in an attempt to lift the atmosphere.

"A lot of supporters are concerned about the lack of atmosphere," Flacks said. "I can remember when opposing teams used to be frightened by it. It is not the same now.

"Last year the club said they were considering a `singing area' but it has been dropped. They said only 100 applied but we put in 500 applications immediately and, if they had given season-ticket holders the option when they renewed they would have had thousands."

"People want to get behind the team but they feel inhibited," Flacks added. "It is partly because of the security people and partly because supporters around them don't want to actively participate. We're not saying people have to but they should be given the chance. We say there is a place at Old Trafford for everybody, but everybody should have a place and that should include supporters who want to sing."

The chant that roused Old Trafford on Saturday was "Stand up for the champions." It is no coincidence that variations of this have been heard all over the country.

Yes, something needed to be done after Hillsborough and the Taylor Report was long overdue. The new grounds are magnificent and it is wonderful to see football booming. But if the grounds become too sanitised there is a risk of losing one of the core aspects of football supporting.

Already the richness and diversity of chants is being eroded. "Blue Moon", "Delilah", "Keep Right On to the End of the Road", "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Fer it's a Grand Old Team to Play For" are part of the fabric of the game. Clubs - and police - need to recognise that just because a supporter wants to sing does not mean he wants to fight.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence