Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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Officer has face slashed as Manchester United anti-Glazer protests force Liverpool game to be postponed

A police officer suffered a "significant slash wound to his face" and required emergency hospital treatment following protests against the owners of Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The Premier League match between United and Liverpool was postponed after fans broke into the stadium and stormed the pitch.

Thousands of supporters had gathered outside, to demonstrate ahead of Liverpool’s visit this afternoon following the club’s failed attempt to join the controversial European Super League.

Several hundred then broke down barriers, went into the stadium and ran onto the pitch – with some even climbing the goalposts.

"Get out of our club," fans chanted as flares were set off. "We want Glazers out."

A statement from Manchester United said that while the club "completely acknowledges the right to free expression and peaceful protest," after discussion with the police, the Premier League, Trafford Council and the two clubs, "our match against Liverpool has been postponed due to safety and security considerations".

The Premier League also released a statement and said: "We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated COVID-19 breaches.

"Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.

"We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football."

It added: "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."

Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Russ Jackson said: "The behaviour displayed today by those at both Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel was reckless and dangerous.

"We understand the passion many supporters have for their team and we fully respect the right for peaceful protest. 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 neighbouring forces to prevent the disorder getting worse.

"At different points, bottles and barriers were thrown, officers assaulted and people scaled the stadium structure creating risk for themselves and officers."

Earlier, fans had been seen also letting off more flares and blocking the entrance to the team’s hotel in Manchester.

After initially not being able to get out of his car and into the ground, referee Michael Oliver eventually managed to make his way inside, but the title-deciding clash against Liverpool that was due to kick off at 4.30pm was at first, delayed, then called off just before 6pm.

Fans had briefly also directed their anger at police, throwing missiles and shouting obscenities at the officers who had gathered en masse at the stadium – but the scene is largely calm now.

Sky correspondent Frazer Maude said at no point in the afternoon had there been "any sign" of the players leaving their hotel.

And he added that when the postponement announcement came, there was "a huge cheer" from supporters.

He added: "Many of the fans wanted a postponement – they wanted to get their message across."

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had earlier backed fans’ right to protest but urged them to do it peacefully.

They are demanding change at the top of the club which has been in control of the Glazer family since 2005.

The family, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have declined to engage with fans since gaining control in a leveraged takeover that loaded debt onto the club.

Being owned by the Glazer family has so far cost Manchester United £1.5bn.

They borrowed £520m to buy the club in 2005 and it has been paying the interest and other charges ever since.

Latest accounts show gross debt is now £536m. United were debt free before the Glazers took over.

The anti-Glazer movement has gained huge momentum in recent weeks following their failed attempt in April to form part of a breakaway Super League. Fans are calling for them to relinquish control.

Just days after the in-out debacle, Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer "apologised unreservedly" to fans.

He said: "We got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right."

But his words did little to dampen their anger and the first demonstration formed outside Old Trafford.

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