Manchester United Reportedly Facing Legal Action over Treatment of Disabled Fans

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2015

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 04:  Fans arrive at the stadium for the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on April 4, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images

A series of reported complaints about Manchester United’s treatment of disabled supporters could see the club face legal action.

According to Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph, fans have expressed their grievances about various issues, with an incident cited that apparently led to a walking stick being confiscated from an 80-year-old Arsenal supporter at United's final home game of the season.

Wilson elaborates in his article:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has now written to both the Premier League and Manchester United to seek a meeting and “urgent assurances that disabled fans will be treated fairly and equally as the law requires”.

The complaints include 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.

The EHRC also confirmed that some of the complaints relate to the removal of walking aids from disabled away fans. The most recent issue occurred before the match against Arsenal at Old Trafford on May 17.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Fans make their way to the stadium prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on February 28, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Aside from the specific issue mentioned, it’s reported that two other Arsenal supporters were initially refused entry into Old Trafford because they were using mobility aids, including crutches and walking sticks.

According to an eyewitness cited by Wilson, stewards told the fans that their equipment “could be used as weapons.”

The complaints were made after United's clash with Arsenal.
The complaints were made after United's clash with Arsenal.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

It’s also noted that police were called, and although the supporters were eventually allowed into the stadium, their aids were confiscated during the game. The eyewitness described the fans’ treatment as “shocking.”

The club issued an accompanying statement in the piece, a section of which can be seen here:

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. Therefore the above system was put into place. No person was refused entry to the stadium.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05:  A banner in the Stretford End commemerating Sir Alex's 25th year as manager during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford on November 5, 2011 in Manchester, England.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

On the Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association website, it is claimed that the club “has the most highly regarded all-round matchday experience to offer any disabled supporter” and that there are 120 wheelchair places at Old Trafford. The site also encourages any fans with queries to contact them.