'If you haven't got a ticket, stay in Glasgow'
Sunday 12 September 2010
"We put the welcome mat out last time and our welcome was abused," said the leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese. "We will not be putting it out this time."
Given what happened the last time Rangers came to Manchester, for the 2008 Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg, this is hardly surprising. It featured the greatest peacetime mobilisation in British history, swamping a city that was prepared for a party, not a riot. "Nobody anticipated the sheer numbers," said Leese. "It was without precedent."
Initially, the club and Strathclyde police thought 70,000 might travel to the final. In fact, 160,000 fans swarmed into the city, 80 per cent of whom would never obtain a ticket for the game at Eastlands.
By the time dawn broke after a match in which Rangers did not manage a single worthwhile shot, the streets around the three Fan Zones, especially the one in Piccadilly, were an open sewer; the city had almost literally been drunk dry, 39 police officers were injured, and most distressingly, scores of children had been abandoned by their parents too drunk to look after them.
The city hired entertainers to amuse fans in the hours before kick-off. Given the reputation of the Glasgow Empire as a comedian's graveyard, perhaps they should not have bothered.
The first act was pelted with coins and cans and forced off after 20 minutes. When the big screen in Piccadilly lost its signal, technicians trying to restore it were attacked with more cans and coins. The match left behind 75 tonnes of rubbish and buried beneath it was the reputation of Glasgow Rangers, although there was little lasting damage to the city centre.
For the Champions' League encounter with Manchester United this week there will be no big screens, no Fan Zones and no welcome. Coaches from Scotland will be marshalled at Wigan's DW Stadium and bussed into the city by special buses. Only fans on these buses will be allocated tickets.
"I would hope pubs in the city centre would either stop or curtail the sale of alcohol," said Leese. "And certainly not serve anyone who appears remotely intoxicated. It is a different game to the final and I don't want to exaggerate fears.
"However, if there are problems on Tuesday, it will be people in the city centre without tickets and we are doing everything we can to discourage them. If you haven't got a ticket, stay at home and watch it in a pub. In Glasgow."
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