Why does Old Trafford make disabled people more violent?

Sniffing out the news once more

You will probably have heard the story by now: disabled Arsenal supporters with tickets attempting to enter Old Trafford this season had their walking sticks removed because

a) they could be used as weapons

b) no one had told Man U that the disabled were coming.

It is shocking, of course, but perhaps for some of us who have been on away trips to Old Trafford, not that surprising.  There is, (and you might well have spotted this if you have been there), something in the air in Stretford.

So it is sad, but typical, that in the media coverage of Old Trafford’s treatment of Arsenal supporters with walking sticks, no one has asked the vital questions behind the event.  Why do some disabled supporters (and here we must remember that Man U themselves have said that those with walking sticks have caused problems in the past – they don’t just cite Arsenal) turn violent at Old Trafford, but nowhere else?

Put another way, what is it about Old Trafford, or perhaps Manchester, that makes it a place that encourages violence among the disabled?

Certainly we know that Manchester is a violent and disturbing place, and one can tell from the Daily Mirror’s website headline in March 2014: Watch the horrifying moment a rampaging mob spread violence and mayhem through the streets of Manchester

In November of the same year the Manchester Evening News ran  Watch: Hundred hooligans in violent street brawl after Manchester derby

In April 2013 the UK Peace Index study, carried out by the Institute for Economics and Peace revealed Manchester to be one of the least peaceful areas of the UK.

So why?  What is it about Manchester that not only makes it a violent place, but also seems to imbue even peaceful disabled visitors with a tendency to use their walking sticks to attack others (at least according to Manchester United stewards – and it is of course only their evidence that we have for such things.  But I am sure Man U stewards are all honourable and honest people who wouldn’t make up stories, so we’ll take them at their word).

It is of course possible to argue that Manchester is a place in which violence is simply endemic, but this doesn’t explain how people who are peaceful elsewhere can turn violent when they enter the city.

No, I think the answer is elsewhere.  I believe that n Manchester the violence is literally in the air, because of dangerously high levels of air pollution.  And indeed it is interesting that the government regularly issues warnings about air quality in Manchester.  Combine the atmosphere with the native Mancunian’s general tendency towards violence, and you have a potent cocktail.

The department for environment blames traffic fumes combined with pollution from Europe (we can always blame Europe) and dust from the Sahara, and I can see how that might affect people.

But there is a second point: the issue of a warning.  The Old Trafford Defence League (Disabled Division) or whatever it is called, said that if they had known in advance about the walking sticks, things would have been ok.  And we have to ask why? how? and quite possibly WHAT????

For Man U claimed the disabled fans could also pose a health and safety risk and they needed to have the number of walking sticks counted in advance.

And Untold demands: How would knowing in advance help?

The number of disabled supporters with walking aids in the away section at Man U is tiny.  And these walking sticks don’t get hidden.  So they are there to see upon entry.  I repeat: How does knowing in advance that Mr X sitting in Seat Y is going to use such an aid, in advance, actually help Elf and Aftey?

Truly, there is something in the air in Stratford.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is apparently writing to Manchester United and the Premier League after the Disability News Service passed on their concerns.  That is right and proper.  But I fear they won’t ask the right questions – including the BIG ONE (as they say in football). Why does this only happen in Manchester?

17 May 2015 when the events took place and Arsenal played Man U at O.T. was a troublesome time for Man U.  Their return to the bidden land of the top four had stumbled a bit, and Arsenal had already won at O.T. in the FAC.  And there was a lot of European dust drifting by.  It was a potent cocktail and enough to make any disabled supporter raise his stick in ire.

Like hell it was.  The act by Man U was outrageous in the extreme, and their pathetic defence of not knowing about the number of sticks in advance is childish.

In the end the disabled supporters were allowed into the stadium to take their seats after the intervention of an officer from Greater Manchester police according to a police spokesman cited by the Disability News Service.  Good for him, good for them.   But even then after the Arsenal fans had been escorted to their seats, as if not enough humiliation had been meted out, the sticks were confiscated!

The EHRC has said it had not ruled out legal action against Man U.

Indeed Manchester Utd has oft been repeatedly criticised for failing to provide the recommended number of spaces for wheelchair-users at Old Trafford but we’ve grown used to that.  It has 120 wheelchair spaces when there should be 280.

The entire and total defence of Manchester Utd came from the spokesman who said: “This policy is displayed at the turnstiles and on our website. The disability liaison officers from both clubs also communicate this policy in advance.

“Where supporters arrive without having pre-notified us of the need for such devices, our stewarding team performs a dynamic risk assessment which usually involves finding a solution to accompany the supporter to their seat and storing the walking device during the game.

“At the game in question, a significant number of visiting supporters who had not pre-notified the club arrived with walking devices.”

Like all Jobsworths they make it sound almost reasonable.   But of course it isn’t.   Asked whether the club would be apologising to the disabled fans, and whether it was concerned that it might have breached the Equality Act, the spokesbeing refused to comment further.


A spokesperson for Level Playing Field, the organisation that works to improve access to sporting venues, said: “Manchester United is, by all accounts, the only Premier League club with this policy.

“LPF would always advise clubs not to confiscate walking aids (such as walking sticks or crutches) from disabled fans and believes that such a practice may even be deemed as discriminatory.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief legal officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said, “Over the past months, we have received a number of complaints about provision for disabled fans at the Premier League.

“This has included discriminatory policies that prevent disabled fans having the same opportunities to attend football matches as non-disabled people.   Complaints have been about disabled fans being prevented from obtaining season tickets, a lack of adequate space for wheelchair-users, and problems for families with young disabled children being unable to sit together to enjoy a game.”

Premier League clubs have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure reasonable adjustment for disabled fans and to make sure they do not discriminate against them in the provision of goods and services.

But, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority confirmed what we’ve found before: the authority ludicrously does not have the regulatory powers to take action against a club for anything other than breaching the rule that Premier League and Championship clubs have to be all-seater stadiums!   So as the rules stand, it is down to the individual to take action against a club if he/she feels they have been discriminated against.

Arsenal provide 96% of the number of wheelchair places recommended by the Home Office for a Premier League club, a room for disabled supporters to change, lifts and a lounge facility available before games. The club has a dedicated team of helpers, and from the experience I have had from being with disabled supporters on occasion, there is no problem getting tickets (which means in effect the missing 4% of places isn’t making it harder for disabled people to get tickets than it is for other supporters), the pricing arrangements are superb, and so is the way the disabled supporters are supported by the club.

But the fact remains, Stratford is the only place where walking stick violence is reported.  Why there I wonder.

Anniversary of the day…

8 June 1995: Bruce Rioch appointed manager of Arsenal from Bolton.  In 1994/5 Bolton were losing League Cup finalists, and beat Reading in the Division One play off. It is said Bolton supporters think of him as one of their best managers.

We’re on Twitter @UntoldArsenal


21 Replies to “Why does Old Trafford make disabled people more violent?”

  1. Is this for real?????? If so…then I am speechless….
    I better wait to comment till my blood pressure is back to normal…. F*ck me…. this can’t be real…

  2. When I first read this on Saturday my immediate thought was: how many stick assisted supporters go to away games? How many sticks were actually collected?
    I know it’s academic, but I’d be interest to know the size of the stick confiscation operation and if this was a one off spiteful retaliatory action for our superiority (over them) this season

  3. ” …our stewarding team performs a dynamic risk assessment …. ” , is that Mancunian double speak for tries to use his brains ?

  4. Apart from being discriminatory, surely this also violates some safety rules. How are they supposed to move out of the stadium in case of an emergency? Wait for one of the stewards to hand them back their walking aids? It’s like strapping someone into their chairs because they could be potentially violent.

    I thought this aspect of punishing the majority at all times, due to a tiny majority hypothetically causing violence was not a done thing in the UK (sadly it is done where I live) and I suppose by and large it isn’t. ManU really should be ashamed about this, and brought to task for it.

  5. During WW2, Manchester was surrounded by cotton mills belching out smoke and fumes. The smoke-free legislation hadn’t been thought of. Private transport was virtually nil but troop trains and military vehicles added to the air pollution.
    BUT…football grounds were invariably centres of good sporting behaviour on and off the field.
    The malaise of a country at war meant that a visit to watch a sporting occasion was treated as a source of brief relief, when day-to-day- cares could be cast aside for an hour or so.
    When peace arrived hatred of our foes ended and in substitution, tribal enmity emerged, mainly between militant supporters of football clubs, which, to a large extent, spawned by generations, continues today. 😉

  6. I am too very shocked to read this…even though I am not surprised!

    This manUre lot have a chip on their shoulder, and it must be due to their Geographical positioning!!!

  7. I suppose the reason why they need to know the number of canes in advance, is that they need to have on staff, one steward to supervise the cane for the duration of time the visitor is at Old Toilet. It is true that should a riot evolve, just about anyone could grab a cane from a disabled person and proceed to use it as a weapon, hence the need to have a steward skilled in unarmed combat to supervise the cane.

    Yes, it is dumb.

    Transfer bans don’t prevent transfers, they just mean the player can’t play. Does this mean they can’t practice either?


  8. As my wife is using a wheelchair or crutches for short walks outside I know a bit about it by experience.
    No sane person wants to sit in a wheelchair or use walking aids for fun. It is born out of a need. And most would want to throw them away if they could. Well all the people who are in that situation that I know personally would.

    I read that one of the persons was in his eighties and had his walking stick taken away from him. Disgusting.

    FFS people who do need those things don’t need more trouble but if you want to go to Old Toilet you need to face it. I have a simple rule when I go somewhere with my wife. If a shop doesn’t find the need to make sure people in wheelchairs can enter the shop and walk around in it in a free way I will not spend one euro or pound in that shop and will leave it. Even if there is something inside that I really need or want. No entry for disabled persons is No money from Walter.

    And if I compare this with the way Arsenal has treated my wife and I on our visit in February I feel oh so proud of being part of our Club. The way the whole staff treated here and helped us was simply amazing.

    I wrote a mail after returning home to the club and got a reply from the disabled section AND from Gazidis in person to thank me for the praise I had given to Arsenal and their staff.

    F*ck off ManUre… (for once I will call them like that and I usually don’t do this)

    Distasteful and disgraceful that are two words that spring to mind. Bah.

  9. Walter

    Whilst I’ve read this article, I can’t bring myself to click on the links that reveal the story. I’m so disgusted that this has happened at the Toilet.

    I remember you writing about the experience of bringing your wife to the Ems, and I was so pleased to read that – although it was difficult for her – such a long trip, the way she was treated by Arsenal’s staff, was exemplary.

    On a couple of occasions I’ve been on the upper tier of our stadium and I’ve seen disabled people and their helpers in a very good space. That made me so happy,even though I have no problems walking.

    Your stand on not spending money in places without access for disabled folk is absolutely correct, and everyone else should take the same stance.
    You’re right to be angry!

  10. I am not surprised to learn of your experience attending an Arsenal game. Over the years I have heard many accounts similar to yours of Arsenal doing all it can for its supporters.

    One I share with you. A handicap supporter phoned BBC’s Radio 5 football phone in program ”606” to publically thank Arsenal for their help.

    The supporter had been to our Cup Winners Cup final in Denmark.

    On boarding the coach after the match he fell and had to go to hospital.

    He was given a stretcher for a bed.

    Arsenal on hearing of the situation arranged for him to be flown to London. It meant 2 seats on the plane.

    He asked Arsenal for the bill and was told. ”You are a regular supporter there is no charge.”

  11. I think the primary solution to this problem re-occourring is for Man Utd officials to stop being arrongant, high handed and harassing the disabled football supporters in general and in particular the peaceful disabled Gooners. The Red Devils authorities should not take any unwarranted punishments of the disabled fans for granted because they are very rich and have become a successful football club. If this ugly trend is not arrested, it may get to a pamdemic level where the disabled fans are denied entrance altogether to Old Trafford Stadium or might even have their wheelchairs seized. How can the un provoked disabled fans turned violent with their sticks, save in self defence? Would the disabled engange in physical fights? Or what are Man Utd saying? I think Arsenal should on behalf of their disabled fans demand unreserved apology from Man Utd and a commitment by them to henceforth desist from such unhumanistic action in future. Thank God the Red Devils fans are not indicted in this shameful episode.

  12. Even worse, this email, which I admit does try to lighten the horror slightly with a spot of humour about Manchester, received a higher than normal level of abuse.

  13. Is it really only disabled people it makes violent? 🙂 Come on it is old trafford, old the meaningful word here. All those cobwebs and ghosts floating around, i’m surprised a horror movie has not been made about it yet.

  14. Walter whilst I appreciate your outrage about disabled access I have to tell you that it isn’t always that easy. Where I work in a little county town in a shop in a tiny street no wider than an alleyway we applied to the local council for the right to place a wheelchair ramp by our front door. The application was refused because to get a reasonable incline for a person to push the chair into the shop the ramp would protrude onto the footpath and be dangerous making people step into the road to pass it. We have put a sign up asking disabled to ring a special bell and a member of staff will come to the door to serve them personally. It’s not a perfect solution and it prevents window shopping but it’s the best we can do.

  15. Porter I don’t think you are referring to the richest club in Football above are you? Unlike this article.
    The richest club in the sport, in the world, they don’t have any excuse. You can’t make one up for them upon their behalf, no matter how hard you try.

    Health and safety legislation in the UK is the last remaining edifice built by athe centuries old civil rights movements.

  16. For myself I blame that odious and noxious rag;

    The Manchester Grunt.

    Indeed most if not all the world’s ills can be traced to this disingenuous factory of gibberish. Only yesterday their utterly discredited sports section led with an article that spending more on wages for Milner then ozil is a sign of progress after the hopeless spend of so much Wonga on so much crap last season – and this nonsensical propaganda will work, witness the people who knew better choosing to groan hard over balotelli last season, only because they had been told to groan by the professional trolls and wind up merchants and worse. I didn’t make any of that up! It is what happened.

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