The Football Supporters’ Federation and fans’ groups from Liverpool and Manchester United have met with the police, Football Association, and both clubs in the build-up to Saturday’s FA Cup 4th Round tie at Anfield. The meeting gave fans the chance to share their views with the authorities and discuss security and transport information.
The FSF strongly believes supporter consultation and communication is key to a successful matchday and hopes such discussions become commonplace before any big game. It's a step in the right direction.
- If you’re involved with a supporters’ group and would like advice on how to set-up this type of meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s important that meetings between the fans and police are attended by groups who are well-respected and viewed as legitimate by their own supporter base. Both clubs have high-profile supporters’ organisations in the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA), Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), and Spirit of Shankly (SoS). All three groups who attended the meeting are affiliated to the FSF - it's free to join the FSF here.
It’s usually away fans whose experiences are intimately linked to on-the-ground policing decisions and, with that in mind, it’s recommended that travelling Manchester United fans read this advice provided by IMUSA and MUST. Aside from travel advice the link also outlines both groups’ views on the consultation process in relation to policing and ticket allocations.
- There will be no alcohol on sale in the away sections of Anfield.
- Manchester United have been allocated the entire lower Anfield Road End.
- There is likely to be a hold-back of United fans for about 15 minutes after the final whistle while the streets surrounding the away end are cleared. It is unlikely that fans will have access to toilet facilities during this period.
- A post-match voluntary escort from Anfield to Liverpool Lime Street is likely.
- The police will make a decision on the day about whether to have a voluntary pre-match police escort from the station to the stadium. Merseyside Police retain the power to enforce an escort upon specific groups they consider to be a public order risk.
- There will be no parking facilities set aside for visiting fans. However, car parks near Goodison Park will be available to away fans as well as home fans. There is also street parking in that area.
Letters have also been sent to the away support asking them to keep the aisles clear and stay in their designated seats. Both IMUSA and MUST acknowledge that fans blocking the gangways presents a problem for safety officers. If supporters keep gangways clear it is less likely that ticket future allocations will be cut.
Measures to make away fans more welcome have also been taken. United fans will be able to watch pre-match highlights of their side's previous games in the concourse while nothing Liverpool-related will be played over the loudspeakers. Unsurprisingly the chances of the away support bursting into a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone reside between nil and zero, so it’s sensible that such anthems aren’t played post-match or piped directly at United fans.
IMUSA and MUST will also provide Merseyside Police with details of a supporter representative who can act as a liaison point if required. All matchday stewards will also be Liverpool FC employees rather than agency staff. In a joint statement IMUSA and MUST welcomed the process as a “promising first step in establishing meaningful consultation”.
“IMUSA and MUST were pleased to be involved in a consultation meeting hosted by Merseyside Police ahead of the upcoming FA Cup tie. The meeting [was] an open and useful exchange of views and ideas. We were disappointed that it appeared some decisions regarding ticket allocation and the availability of alcohol had been made prior to the meeting.
“However, we consider that the meeting and promised subsequent engagement is a promising first step in establishing meaningful consultation and knowledge exchange between those who organise football matches and those who pay to attend them.”
Liverpool’s SoS also welcomed the meetings and the role they can play in highlighting significant decisions taken by the police or club. These decisions can of course have a huge impact on the matchday experience of supporters.
“These meetings allow us to air supporter views and opinions, as well as understand the reasons for decisions. This appears to be a transparent process, and one that we hope will continue, as ongoing dialogue can only benefit our members, and the fan-base as a whole. We hope this can be made to work on a practical level and that it signals the start in a shift in the attitude of the police and the club towards fans,” said SoS.
Of course everyone’s expecting a lively atmosphere at Saturday’s match but we hope post-match that everyone will be talking about the football, not off-the-pitch matters. Hopefully the hard work of all involved in this process can help supporters enjoy their day and do just that.
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