MANCHESTER, England (UPI) —
Sunday’s English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool was postponed after United fans invaded Old Trafford in protest of the club’s owners, the Glazer family.
In a statement released
Sunday, Manchester United said the decision came after discussions with police, the Premier League, and the Trafford council. A revised date for the fixture hasn’t been announced.
“Our fans are passionate about Manchester United, and we completely acknowledge the right to free expression and peaceful protest,” the club said in its statement. “However, we regret the disruption to the team and actions which put other fans, staff, and the police in danger.
“We thank the police for their support and will assist them in any subsequent investigations.”
The Premier League also issued a statement, which read: “We sympathize with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football
. The rearrangement of the fixture will be communicated in due course.”
Liverpool said in a news release
that the club was in “full agreement” with the decision to call the match off.
The protests started with more than 1,000 supporters outside Old Trafford and the Lowry Hotel, where members of Manchester United were staying. While the demonstration had been planned and started out peaceful, it quickly turned into chaos as fans infiltrated the club’s stadium.
United supporters broke the fencing around Old Trafford and stormed the pitch. Fans then lit flares and hurled them throughout the stadium, while others jumped on the goalposts and grabbed equipment from the locker rooms.
Police eventually moved in and cleared the areas inside and outside of Old Trafford. There were isolated incidents of bottles and barriers being thrown.
Greater Manchester Police issued a statement
and confirmed that two officers were injured and another required emergency hospital treatment after being attacked with a bottle.
“We understand the passion many supporters have for their team and we fully respect the right for peaceful protest,” GMP Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said. “Plans were in place to ensure this could happen safely, but it soon became clear that many present had no intention of doing so peacefully.
“The actions of those today required us to take officers from front line policing and call in support from neighboring forces to prevent the disorder from getting worse. At different points, bottles and barriers were thrown, officers assaulted and people scaled the stadium structure creating risk for themselves and officers.
“We have launched an investigation and we will be working closely alongside partners to ensure we establish the full circumstances surrounding today’s events and prosecute those responsible.”
United fans’ anti-Glazer movement gained momentum in recent weeks after the club’s failed attempt to break away and form
part of the European Super League.
United owner Joel Glazer, who was named the ESL’s vice chairman when it was initially announced last month, apologized to fans in an open letter after the team withdrew from the proposed league.
Days later, however, fans protested at Manchester United’s training ground. Last week, United supporters wrote to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who announced in the aftermath of the ESL withdrawal that he will leave his role with the club at the end of the year.
The Glazer family purchased Manchester United for about $1.1 billion in 2005. Fans of the club never accepted the American owners due to the Glazers’ leveraged takeover that year, which plunged the team into debt.
The Glazers retain majority ownership of Manchester United. The family also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the Super Bowl earlier this year.
Reporting by Connor Grott
United Press International is an international news agency whose newswires, photo, news film, and audio services provided news material to thousands of newspapers, magazines and radio and television stations for most of the 20th century.