In the run up to the FA Cup tie against West Ham, there has been a severe communications breakdown between authorities and fans.
Here is an explanation of the situation – and what you can do to help.
Q. How many tickets could United claim for the match?
Q. How many did they get?
Q. On what grounds can West Ham reduce the number of tickets we get?
If any relevant authority has safety concerns.
Q, Are there any safety concerns?
Yes. On December 14, West Ham’s safety advisory group (SAG) met to discuss what allocation United should get.
This is a committee made up of representatives from West Ham, the emergency services and Newham Council, which issues the stadium safety certificate.
Q. What happened?
At that meeting, the SAG made recommendations about what action West Ham needed to take to address the safety concerns.
It was then up to West Ham’s stadium safety manager to put those recommendations into action – and that produced a final allocation of 4,490.
Q. So we’ve lost 762 tickets. How do we ensure that we get the full allocation back next time or at least, don’t lose tickets next time?
Generally – behave in the stadium while still enjoying the game.
Q. But surely there must be more specific advice than that – like with Liverpool away, the advice was to not block the aisles and, as a result of that we’re getting our full allocation back next season. What about this game?
Well, no. We can’t be more specific because no SAG member will tell us what safety concerns they have or what recommendations they made?
Q. What did the Newham Council representatives say?
The SAG’s deputy chairwoman Sheila Roberts, who works for the council, said:
“Any further enquiry must be directed at the club as this is a commercial issue for the club.”
Q. What did the council’s press office say?
Kristianah Fasunloye said: “We cannot release this information and I’m not going to get into an argument with you about it.”
She promised to call back, but never did.
Q. What did West Ham say?
They never bothered to reply.
We asked the Premier League who West Ham’s supporter liaison officer is and never got a response.
Though the club’s owner David Gold said on Twitter that police were responsible for the allocation cut.
Q. What did the police say?
A Met Police spokesman said: “You have already asked Sheila Roberts at the council, so it is with her. I cannot comment about what was discussed at the meeting.”
Q. Is the council obliged to tell us this information?
Yes, for two reasons:
First, the SAG is a council-lead meeting funded by the taxpayers. It’s only right that the people who pay the salaries of most of those at the meeting should find out what happens.
Second, the council issues a stadium safety certificate and, should something go horribly wrong, it would be held accountable for doing so in error and, therefore, the issuing of that certificate should be open to public scrutiny.
Q. Surely there must be some way of getting this information?
Yes. The only way you can make the council provide it is to throw the law at them – make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
Reds Away has done so and we are expecting the resulting paperwork on January 16.
Q. But that’s after the match. Isn’t it useless then?
Well, yes – because fans’ groups such as MUST won’t be able to inform fans of the specific safety concerns for this game.
Q. You would think the council, the police and West Ham would want the fans’ groups to help, wouldn’t you?
Yes, but, sadly, many of these authorities are stuck in the dark ages and do not like ‘outsiders’ poking their noses in – even when there is clear evidence that fans’ groups help them do their jobs.
Q. What do MUST think?
Its chief executive officer Duncan Drasdo said:
“The theme that remains constant through many away ticketing decisions is the lack of transparency and information given to fans.
We are rarely part of the decision making process on away ticketing issues, despite being the people most affected by decisions.
Safety groups, councils and football clubs need to change their stance and liaise with supporter groups when discussing safety, allocations and policies.
We are calling on the FA and Premier League to help set up a new framework for away ticketing decisions that ensures fans are consulted in the future.
Evidence suggests that, when fan groups are consulted, the problems that safety authorities have raised are far more likely to be solved.’”
Q. And what does the Football Supporters’ Federation think?
Its casework Amanda Jacks said:
“The FAs Crowd Management Good Practice Guide states that there is plenty of evidence to suggest fans behave better when they feel included.
Supporter groups all over the country are keen to be included as part of the solution rather than just seen as the problem.
Fans are the largest stakeholders in the game and we’d like to see more proactive communication between the authorities and fans.”
Q. So it looks like we’re not going to be able to help the authorities tackle safety issues for this game. What is Reds Away and MUST doing in the long run?
For a start, we’ve written to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), which advises SAGs and local councils about how to tackle such issues.
Its chief executive, Ruth Shaw, told us that SGSA provides local councils with guidelines about how SAGs should be managed.
The guidelines say:
“Unless all these (SAG) decisions are recorded at the time and the minutes are agreed as soon as possible thereafter, they risk giving rise to debate and possible recriminations at a later date.
It is also essential to record why the SAG has proposed and/or the local authority has accepted any deviations from the recommendations of the Green Guide when setting the capacity of the sports ground.
The onus will be on the local authority to demonstrate that it has acted reasonably.
Such minutes constitute an important part of the audit trail that the local authority should establish for the SAG.
This should cover the procedures for ensuring that… the decisions of the local authority have been properly communicated to all interested parties.”
Q. What does the SGSA think about this issue?
They are concerned to the point that they have raised it with Liam Briggs, who is the chairman of the Joint Chairs, which is a group that keeps SAGs in check.
Reds Away has written to Mr Briggs, though he is not back from annual leave until January 7.
Q. So what can I do?
It might achieve nothing, but it might open up a much-needed dialogue and, ultimately, give us bigger allocations in future.