Manchester United fans stormed into the English football club’s stadium and onto the pitch on Sunday to protest against the team’s owners, the American billionaire Glazer family, and their foiled plan to join the abandoned breakaway Super League.
Fans at Old Trafford sang, set up flares and unfurled banners calling for the Glazers to leave Manchester.
The protests delayed and subsequently postponed the club’s game against arch-rival Liverpool, which is owned by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, another US investor who apologized to fans for his support of the Super League.
Fans have “the right to free speech and peaceful protest,” Manchester United said in a statement. “However, we regret the disruption to the team and the actions that have endangered other fans, staff and the police.”
The Premier League added, “We understand and respect the power of the sentiment, but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and wrongdoing, especially given the associated Covid-19 violations.”
Joel Glazer, the team’s co-chair, apologized last month after being forced to cancel plans to create an escaping Super League for an elite group of Europe’s best-known football clubs, including Real Madrid from Spain and Juventus from Italy.
According to the proposals, the founding clubs would be guaranteed a place in the competition every year, which is contrary to the tradition of European football where clubs compete to participate in competitions at the highest level.
Fans remain angry that Manchester United supported the Super League. Their accident with the Glazers dates back to the family’s takeover of the club in 2005, a £ 790 million payout that left the club with debt, expensive fees and interest payments. The family also takes dividends from the club, a rarity in the football world.
Gary Neville, the former Manchester United player and an influential pundit, said on Sky Sports that now was the right time for the Glazers to sell the club, which has not won the Premier League since 2013.
“It would be an honorable thing to do,” he said.
Ahead of the match, Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United, who announced that he would be stepping down at the end of the year following the icy Super League reception, apologized to fans for the team’s role in the abandoned project.
“I can assure you that we have learned our lesson. . . and we are not aiming for a revival of the Super League’s plans, ”he told supporters at a rally on Friday.