Keane prawn crack stirs terrace talk

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The Independent Football

What started as an attack by Roy Keane on Old Trafford's silent, prawn sandwich-eating classes snowballed yesterday into a call for the introduction of safe terraced areas at Premiership stadiums to bring the atmosphere back to the country's football grounds.

What started as an attack by Roy Keane on Old Trafford's silent, prawn sandwich-eating classes snowballed yesterday into a call for the introduction of safe terraced areas at Premiership stadiums to bring the atmosphere back to the country's football grounds.

Among those backing the campaign were the chairman of the Football Foundation, Tom Pendry MP, a leading Manchester councillor - who has the power to sanction terraced areas at venues such as Manchester City's new stadium at Eastlands - and fans' groups, including the Football Supporters' Association.

Keane kicked off the debate on Wednesday night after captaining his Manchester United side to a 1-0 win in the Champions' League over Dynamo Kiev at Old Trafford. Keane claimed that corporate supporters know nothing about the game and that the subdued atmosphere at the match was partly due to them.

"We were 1-0 up and there are one or two stray passes and they are getting on the players' backs. It's not on," Keane said.

"Some people come to Old Trafford and I don't think they can spell football let alone understand it. As I've said, away from home our fans are what I would call the hardcore fans - but at home they have a few drinks and a prawn sandwich and don't realise what's going on out on the pitch and that's a worry."

Keane's comments swiftly led to a debate about the changing atmosphere at football grounds in general.

"Keane has got a point. The atmosphere in general has not been good for years and it's getting worse," Andy Walsh of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association said. "We're not saying that there's no room for corporate hospitality but the stick has been bent too far the other way. The gentrification of football means ordinary fans are being overlooked."

Walsh added that groups such as Imusa, along with the Football Supporters' Association and SAFE (Standing Areas for Eastlands, a group hoping to see safe standing areas incorporated at Eastlands) have been campaigning some time for the introduction of safe standing areas.

"There's no reason why we can't have safe, cheaper areas for people to stand," Walsh said. "The football authorities told us two years ago that there was no mood for terracing among politicians because it might have harmed the England bid for the 2006 World Cup. How ironic that Fifa awarded the tournament to Germany, where they listen to what supporters really want and there are lots of ground with large, safe standing areas."

Some of Germany's largest clubs have standing sections in their grounds that have temporarily seats for European games - Uefa, the European governing body, will not allow standing at its matches but has nothing against standing in national league matches. German examples include Europe's largest terrace at Borussia Dortmund, where 26,000 people pay under £50 a year for season tickets.

"We are not harking back to the old days when you saw thousands of people heaving and swaying in a huge mass," said Phill Gatenby, a spokesman for Safe, yesterday. "What we're asking for is a sensible approach to allow fans to stand at matches.

"Tom Pendry now endorses the campaign. I also had a meeting with Martin Pagle of Manchester City Council this morning and he was amazed at how well they do it in Germany. Even the Manchester City safety officer is now behind us." Gatenby added that some clubs, including Charlton and Bradford, were also behind him in principle.

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