Football: Aftermath of the ESL Debacle

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

As a follow on to the European Super League (ESL) opposition, fans demonstrated inside and outside the Old Trafford stadium at the tie between Manchester United and Liverpool on 2 May 2021.

They were protesting against the Glazer family’s ownership of the Club and, in particular, their lack of sporting interest in the Club, being interested only in their financial interest. Manchester United Football Club was taken over by Malcolm Glaze in June 2005 in a buyout that leveraged £525 million onto the Club. He died in 2014, but his two sons, Avram and Joel took over and are co-chairmen of the Club. Joel, in fact, was named as Vice-Chairman of the ESL and, following its collapse, apologised to the fans in an open letter.

Around a hundred of them broke into the ground and stormed onto the pitch and, in the course of the melee, two policemen were injured, one of whom required hospital treatment, and officials had to take shelter in their rooms, for their safety. Firecrackers and flares were thrown and the fans caused criminal damage.

As a result of their protests and criminal behaviour, the game eventually had to be abandoned on the grounds of safety and security. The League condemned the violence, criminal damage and trespass and stated that such behaviour “should have no place in football…[and] …fans have many channels in which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority as seen today have no justification.”

Certainly, this is not the way for fans to behave, however strongly they feel about any matter affecting their clubs. As the UK Minister for Tourism and Sport, Nigel Huddleston, remarked:

Passions are running high in football but there are ways to protest and make your voice heard without hurting or endangering others.”

Calls have been made for The English Premier League to take appropriate disciplinary action.

Apart from any criminal proceedings being taken by the Greater Manchester police against any of the protesters, it is to be hoped that the Premier League, in order to reflect the inexcusable behaviour of the fans, will heed these calls for disciplinary action and impose severe sporting penalties, which will set a precedent and, hopefully, act as a deterrent against similar behaviour by fans in the future.

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘