You Set The Scene

The question of the declining atmosphere at OT is one that’s been done to death over the years. All seater stadia, prohibitive ticket prices, an aging fanbase, lack of unreserved seating – we all know the contributing factors. It’s got to the point now where even games like Liverpool and City can’t be relied upon to rouse the crowd either – there’s the usual expectation and hype beforehand, but all too often the games themselves have been relatively subdued affairs in comparison with past meetings. There’s more of a buzz about the place certainly, but the necessary level of frenzied (for want of a better word)…‘hatred’ doesn’t seem to be there anymore.

People often wheel out their experiences from decades previous to explain what’s missing from the modern day game. When I first started going in the early 80’s, my Dad and his cronies would regularly regale me with tales of the 60’s and 70’s to explain what a ‘real’ atmosphere was like. ‘You had be here at 1pm, otherwise you’d be locked out’ and all that kind of caper. The 80’s are held in regard as halcyon days now, but in reality they weren’t the all-singing, all-dancing, maelstrom of noise and excitement they’re remembered as – for the most part they were pretty crap.

Think back to the games you remember from that era and you’ll recall the handful (if that) of big European nights or the FA Cup QF’s v’s Everton and West Ham…or beating the scousers on occasion. No one cites the turgid 0-0’s vs West Brom or the defeats to Norwich – played out in front of perpetually frustrated, below capacity crowds. The football was mostly shite during that era and for the most part, the atmosphere at the games reflected that. It was still ace, though.

Like misty-eyed pensioners harping back to bombed out houses and rationing, what people really miss from that period is the sense of camaraderie and the collective hope that things might some day improve on the pitch. Although we once existed in relative squalor, we wouldn’t change those days for the world. Yet here we are now, stuck scratching our heads, thinking ‘what the fuck?’ in the theme park-esque utopia that is the post-promised land, modern day OT. Times have changed and there are some advantages, I don’t want to spend hours queuing up for a place on the terraces anymore. I’m quite content arriving 2 minutes before kick off and taking my usual seat, thanks very much.

Where I sit in K-Stand, there’s little evidence of this influx of middle class supporters that has supposedly invaded ‘our’ game. Sure, there are certainly more women and kids in attendance than there were once upon a time – but for the most part, I see the same faces that have been going for years. Yet K-Stand is rarely the raucous, bear-pit that it was once-upon-a-time – more often than not it’s flat and subdued. I just sense that after 20 years of watching the team clean up domestically, most just can’t really be arsed anymore. Collectively, we’ve become spoilt and lazy.

Try to recall the games at Old Trafford that were properly bouncing over the last 5 years. The last one was the League Cup SF v’s City a couple of years ago and before that you’ve got the CL Semi against Barca. Other than that, I’m genuinely struggling. A bit further back I can recall the 1-0 v’s Chelsea when Fletcher scored and better still, the 2-0 win vs Arsenal on the day we ended the ‘Invincibles’ run.

On the rare occasions the team needs a lift, the OT crowd haven’t responded in recent times. The Blackburn game on New Year’s Eve was appalling. After being 2-0 down and then pulling it back to 2-2 with 25 minutes to go, there was nothing – a brief celebration after the equaliser but then everyone settled back down and waited for the inevitable winner. The place could and should have been rocking, but we’re complacent these days – that’s what watching this team has done to us. We turn up, we expect, the team normally delivers.

The answer, according to a proposal recently sent to the club by the rodent-fronted, Stretford End Flags group is to introduce yet another singing section into the proceedings. Excuse me for not sharing much enthusiasm for this idea, but is there really any point to this other than gaining further publicity for the group itself? Designing and funding banners/mosaics is one thing, but I don’t see how shifting round a couple of thousand season tickets in the Scoreboard Paddock (East Lower) will bring about any marked improvement in the stadium noise levels.

One has to bear in mind that the last such initiative (the singing section located in ST2) achieved very little other than lead to an increase in 200mph, happy-clappy versions of ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘Build A Bonfire’. To my mind, there either is an atmosphere or there isn’t one. You can’t force these things and doing so is exactly the kind of contrived, Soccer AM style bullshit we should be attempting to steer clear of.

The most disheartening part of SEF’s blueprint for OT’s future however, is the genius proposal to shift visiting fans from their existing home in the SE corner (or L Stand as I’m going to insist on still calling it), up into the 3rd tier of the North Stand. Word is that the club are fully behind the plan and are set to trial it at the Villa game in a few weeks time. Whilst this is undoubtedly fantastic news for the poor sods with the misfortune to hold season tickets up there, the implications for those of us residing nearer sea-level are pretty grim.

It’s obvious (check Ajax and Bilbao recently) the presence of visiting fans leads to an improved atmosphere about the place, and that most of the noise generated at pitch level currently stems from the left hand side of K-Stand  – mainly due to their close-proximity to the away supporters. Surely moving the visitors from this area will only result in further life being sucked out of the ground?

Sticking visitors up in Tier 3 no doubt makes logistic sense to the club. Away fans will be easier to segregate and police, plus there’s the added bonus of being able to offload the worst seats in the house to them at a premium price. I suspect we’ll then see the existing visitors’ coach park re-located to behind the North Stand somewhere, which in turn will free up the recently pedestrianised forecourt. In place of the traditional sights of police escorts and piles of horseshit, instead we’ll see one of those godawful fanzone areas erected in which further £’s can be extracted from willing daytrippers. The club must be rubbing their hands together at the prospect.

I suppose it’s indicative of where we are now when you’ve got groups purporting to represent fans’ interests not only backing, but actually devising such nonsense. The atmosphere is shocking for the most part now, but as I’ve made clear, I’m not naïve enough to think there’s a solution readily available that will magically transport us back to a golden age that never really existed to begin with. You can’t force people to sing and generate noise, it has to happen organically for it to have any meaning. SEF would be better advised to focus on protecting the fans’ culture that still exists in the ground, not risk its further erosion by attempting to impose ill-conceived changes. Perhaps I should just be content they haven’t suggested drummers and trumpets yet?

Copyright Red News – March 2012

6 thoughts on “You Set The Scene

  1. OT Singing Section

    It is dissapointing to read the inaccuracies in this article, which clearly shows a lack of research by the author. Let me clarify a couple of points.

    This proposal did not come from any individual supporters group, as is stated in the article. The proposal was submitted on behalf of a collective group of supporters groups and Fanzines, including Rednews where this article first appeared.

    Secondly, no part of the submitted proposal suggested moving away fans to North stand Tier 3.

    Manchester United had already taken the decision to move away fans to tier 3, before the singing section proposal was submitted.

    What Manchester United have offered, is the current away section, that will be empty as a result of the already agreed move for away fans. Given the logistics of the submitted proposal and the current occupancy in those intended seats, the use of the current away end has provided a blank canvas to work with.

  2. carlosartorial Post author

    Unless I’m mistaken, your liason with other ‘supporters groups’ only went as far as emailing them an outline of your proposal prior to you submitting the idea to the club.

    Was there any meeting between these interested parties prior to you contacting the club with your plans?

    Also, I could have sworn the proposal published on the SEF forum included a section at the bottom suggesting that away fans should be moved from their current location.

  3. OT Singing Section

    Perhaps some journalistic research and knowledge on the subject should have been gathered before writing an inaccurate article.

    Various supporters groups/fanzines gave input and suggestions to the singing section proposal. The idea was initially driven by Pete Boyle before it was put onto paper. The submitted proposal was altered several times following feedback from others (Consultation via email and a couple of telephone calls, rather than a physical meeting). The propsal was discuused by the various groups for a 2 week period before being submitted to both MUFC and The Fans forum. This document included submissions made by representatives from MUST, as well as from Rednews, United We Stand, Redsaway and Stretford End Flags, who all put their name to the proposal. (2 other groups were asked to support the proposal and to offer submissions, neither opf them replied to the invite).

    The submitted proposal suggested moving away fans to East Stand tier 2, where they get located for cup games at Old Trafford. It made no suggestion of moving away fans to tier 3.

    The proposal was submitted on the 5th March and The Fans forum also presented it to MUFC officials at the fans forum meeting on the 9th March. At the same fans forum meeting, MUFC made aware that away fans were being moved to tier 3 and this would be trialled against Aston Villa.

    Prior to the Fulham game on the 26th March, representatives from the singing section committee met with 3 MUFC officials to discuss the proposal. It was at this meeting that MUFC made us aware that the away fans section is under a planned move to North Stand Tier 3, subject to a successful trial against Aston Villa. At this meeting, MUFC stated that they had considered the proposal and that they are in favour of the singing section. They offered the group the use of the current away end and stated that this section will be fan lead, with its input and promotion comong from the fans groups, rather than from MUFC.
    At this meeting we sought assurances over various issues (As raised by supporters groups involved in the initial proposal).

    Following this meeting, Andy Mitten (Who was in attendance at the meeting on behalf of United We Stand), wrote an excellent article on the singing section, that was given 3 pages in the sports section of The Manchester Evening News. Outlining why the section is needed and how fans can register an initial interest into moving into this section.

    Following the weekends away fan move trial and the official sanctioning of the move by the various local authorities, the group will again be meeting with MUFC to outline further details on the singing section, or as we prefer The Scoreboard Paddock area.

  4. David

    As someone sat in Scoreboard Paddock, where there is still a semblance of atmosphere due to a few of us, moving the away fans is daft in the extreme. We need them for banter and atmosphere so why not move the disabled fans ( controversial but not exactly noisy fans there) and have signing section as the paddock and away fans in “L” stand or East upper?

    Well written by the way Carlo

    1. OT Singing Section

      It would require a few logistical changes etc to move the wheelchair section. The toilets in this area, tea bars and access etc are geared up for wheelchairs.
      Its similar with using The Stretford End, as this currently has family stand and an exec area seating within it, which again come with various logistical issues and invlved facilities.

      The empty away area gives the ideal location. Firstly its empty, so no fans need to be asked to move out of their seats. Secondly, the acoustics in this area make it one of the best locations within Old Trafford. Why should away fans have an area where they can be heard more than United fans? The initial submitted proposal suggested using the paddock areas of East lower, but that would have required people to move out and give up the cheapest seat in the stadium.

      We hope that the singing section will lift other parts of Old Trafford, inspire more noise from the Stretford End and that the banter can be retained via interaction with fellow supporters, as it once was in the long gone era of standing.

  5. Bridgend Red

    ‘representatives from the singing section committee’ this bit really tickles me!! A committee!! does anyone shout order order and conclude with if there is no other business we shall conclude this committee meeting as over?


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