Manchester United 'bemused' by ongoing restrictions banning fans from Old Trafford

James Ducker
·2-min read
Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain  - Reuters
Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - Reuters

Manchester United have expressed their “bemusement” at the ongoing ban on fans at stadiums as the club implored the government to give the greenlight for stadiums to reopen.

Downing Street had proposed crowds being gradually reintroduced from the start of this season only to block such moves following a rise in coronavirus cases and there are now fears supporters may not be permitted to return until the end of March at the earliest.

Telegraph Sport revealed at the weekend how United have modified Old Trafford to accommodate around 23,500 socially distanced spectators - around 32 per cent of capacity - and have been working for months to ensure they could welcome fans back in a safe, bio-secure way.

Football clubs have been severely impacted financially by the pandemic and United are not immune to that, with the club revealing last week in their latest accounts that the crisis had cost them up to £71 million in lost revenue for the 12 months to June this year.

Ed Woodward, the United executive vice-chairman, voiced his frustration last week at people being allowed to watch football in indoor cinemas but not large, outdoor stadiums.

And Woodward’s dismay has now been echoed by Collette Roche, United’s chief operating officer, who has been at the heart of the club’s rigorous plans to turn Old Trafford into a Covid-secure environment.

“It’s quite bemusing to understand why people can gather in other settings, such as on an aeroplane or a restaurant, or even in a cinema to watch football, when we know we've got the plans and the process is ready to deliver a match day here safely,” Roche said.

“We were really disappointed when the government decided not to allow fans back in the stadium in October because we’ve got everything in place to make sure we can do so safely.

“We've got all the Covid security measures and other processes ready to go. We spent around two months working with the government guidelines to develop the right processes and measures to make sure that we can have around 23,500 people in this stadium safely social distancing.”

Roche said United had effectively had “to redesign what match day looks like” at Old Trafford, which will include staggering arrival times for fans and temperature checks before entry to minimise risks.

“The government gave us guidelines and it’s those guidelines that we have followed,” she said. “I'm convinced that would be able to do so safely.”