View on away fans in North Tier 3

As a season ticket holder in the second tier of the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, I’d been eyeing the Aston Villa home game with interest. For the first time ever at Old Trafford (previously my ticket was in the Stretford End) I was going to have away fans sitting above and behind me. And it might be permanent.

First of all, let’s get this straight. This was not a representative test of what life will be like for every game if away fans are permanently relocated to the top tier of the Sir Alex Ferguson stand. As far as I’m aware there was no trouble, which I’m sure means the council, fire and safety officers, the club itself and whoever else wants to can give the experiment a big shiny red tick and consider it a marvellous success. But sitting the Villa fans up there and sticking Liverpool or Manchester City fans up there will be a very different kettle of fish.

As I leave Old Trafford the stairs running down next to mine come down from Tier 3 and let fans out at the next exit. I counted five police officers in the vicinity. Obviously for a game against major rivals that’s going to be hilariously inadequate and the whole operation will be stepped up, so at this stage it’s impossible to comment on what life will be like when police try to usher thousands who support our fiercest rivals away from the back of the North Stand.

One Villa fan maybe allowed me a small insight though by calling me a ‘cockney c***’ as we went down the stairs together separated by a bit of wire mesh. No comment on the second part of that phrase, but I am most definitely not a cockney.

But Aston Villa fans are unlikely to bother throwing things. We’re all familiar with the stories and songs about what can be launched at us by rivals. My seat is a few rows below the overhang of Tier 3. In other words, prime missile launching range. I’ve never believed that watching a highly-charged game can be improved by taking a bottle, or perhaps even faeces, in the back of the head. But it’s now become a realistic possibility.

In terms of atmosphere, I was really surprised to get out of the ground, into the pub and discover people saying that the Villa fans had been really quiet. Apart from singing “let him die” when Ashley Young went down, I was actually quite impressed with them. They sang for most of the game including the chant for Petrov in the 19th minute (which United ruined a bit by launching an exciting attack at the same time). By contrast, I could barely hear a peep out of the Stretford End. Rivals unable to hear each other during the average league game doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Manchester United fans waves their Green and Gold ScarvesObviously, it’s difficult to judge how the atmosphere will change if this is approved and the new Singing Section comes hurtling into existence. That might be (and hopefully will be) the one positive to come out of this mess. Improving the atmosphere generated by United fans in Old Trafford would be a big plus, even if the cynical part of me thinks this will be aided by moving the away contingent as far as possible from the TV camera microphones.

But in doing that, United are doing opposition fans a disservice.

I’ve been in the away end at St James’ Park and complained bitterly about the way Newcastle see fit to shove the away support in the furthest possible seats from the action. It’s not fun climbing what feels like at least 300 floors of a skyscraper to your seat, especially when you do it this year and are rewarded with a dire 3-0 loss and arguably the worst away performance of the season. Every single football fan I know who has travelled to Newcastle is unhappy with the arrangement, and most see it as one of the worst grounds in the league for the view you get as an away fan, even if the atmosphere is good.

Quite honestly, if United go ahead with this arrangement I don’t think I’ll ever be able to complain about it again with a straight face. What it smacks of to me is treating away fans as an inconvenience and throwing them as far away from the action as possible without making them watch it from the car park outside.

In theory at least, those who travel to away games with their team are the most committed supporters around. If a Sunderland fan is going to trek down to Old Trafford from the north east on a Monday night in January, it’s safe to assume that they care quite passionately about their team. Let’s treat them properly and be expected to be treated properly in return.

Blackburn gave United 7,000 seats, the whole area behind the goal. Of course, that was because they can’t sell out the ground and Manchester United can sell all those seats for them, but when Liverpool arrived the following week (and didn’t sell out their allocation) the supporters who did turn up were allocated space in the same Darwen End. At the other end is the Ronnie Clayton stand, where most of the Blackburn atmosphere is generated from. Singing home fans behind one goal, away fans behind the other? What a wild idea! Noise created by fans singing at each other so people can hear them.

Some people have told me to embrace change and get on with it. But this trial hasn’t done anything to convince me of the positives.

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6 Comments

  1. I have not been able to get to many games this season because of my new born but next season would like to buy one in this new singing section. When can i apply for one?

  2. Good to see a debate on the matter of moving away fans and its also interesting to see some of the myths that people like to think will occur by having fans in the upper tiers.

    As you have mentioned, its hard to gage an actual comparison from only having the Villa fans in tier 3. They are renowned for not ebing the best fans about and their songbook comes down to singing more songs about United than it does for any Villa songs. Infact, they still think the singing of “We support our local team” is both witty and original, depsite the empty seats at Villa Park each week proving they dont actually support their team, local or not.
    one thing it did do, wa waken up pats of Old Trafford that havent been the most vocal areas over the years and that can only be a good thing, although no doubt that novety will wear off and those fans can return to sleeping during games!

    The myth about fans being in a higher tier and throwing things is just that, a myth. Its an unfounded fear. I, like most other fans dont suddenly develop an urge to throw objects when I get placed in a higher tier, no matter who may be sat below me.
    For cup games at Old Trafford, both liverpool fans and man City fans have had the upper tier in East stand and during those games no objects came raining down from the tier above. United themselves say they get relatively few problems from City fans and that the problems that occur when Liverpool are visiting tend to occur away from the seated areas. Infact, united stated one club who have he worst set of fans visiting season on season (as is always evident by the number of police in the area at this fixture).

    Yes, we can all recall the incident of human faeces being thrown. But that was one incident at Anfield and on the whole that was a rarity given the number of visits United have played there and sat underneath away fans.

    The view in tier 3 isnat actually as bad as some will make out. Its an area that has a much better view and is located much nearer to the pitch than the away end in the corner of St james Park. Infact, the 3rd tier of North stand is actually nearer to the pitch than the back sections of Stretford/east tier 2 and gives a much better view of overall play.
    newcastles away end isnt the worst in the league and it provides a much better place to generate atmosphere than the side section at wolves and doesnt come with the restricted view that the Pillars in Goodison Park provide.

    when i travel away, i dont take into consideration where the location of the away end is. I simply travel to support the team, be that from a restricted view terrace at Aldershot or from the top of the steep inclined stand at Wigan.

    One thing we have seen withaway fans visiting old Trafford is that they are on the decline. Only 3 clubs ahve requested the full allocation, leaving 16 other clubs who have provided an area full of empty seats or who have taken the minimal numbers. The quality of banter is no longer there with the majority of clubs. they turn up, sing the same unoriginal songs, mainly about United support and in most cases these days, rarely make any noise at all. The 320 Fulham fans or the 560 Blackburn fans who turned up this season didnt create any banter other thanlaughing at their small numbers.

    Hopefully the singing section will be the catalyst for an improved atmosphere within old Trafford. It can be our very own away support within old Trafford. As in days gone bye, the banter will now come from United fans baiting each other; the Stretford End encouraging the Scorebaord Paddock and the Paddock baiting K-stand for songs.

    the time to comment on the fulle effect of the away fans move will be at the end of next season, when we can see the real efect of moving fans into tier 3 and the atmopshere generated by a club who fill the allocation and sing (about themselves) all game.

  3. I sit in east upper and have sat underneath city and Liverpool fans in cup games over the last couple of years. Not a pleasant experience I can tell you. Constantly, and I mean constantly peppered with coins had me tucking my head into my jacket like a tortoise for 90 minutes. Thankfully though, it wasn’t until towards the end of the that bits of seats were being thrown down like confetti. Not nice being sat under them.

  4. Im not sure what the fuss is about here, its about whats best for us first, second and third! do you honestly think any other club puts away fans first?! its about how we can generate the best atmosphere and this is the way forward.

    As mentioned elsewhere, a trial with Villa “fans” is not the best gauge, part time support dosent even come close, they are more obsessed about us than themselves, sad fu*kers, in fact deluded, sad, clueless fu*kers, but hey thats for another day.

    This will work in the long run and will be a great success.

  5. I think one of the problems with this is the perception from other clubs that we’re ‘doing a newcastle’ and shoving the away fans as far away from the pitch as possible.

    We already see that other clubs will cut our allocation for shits and giggles (Stand up, Sunderland) or ‘safety concerns’ so the risk is that this will further legitimise this kind of behavior in the eyes of other clubs’ fans.

    Mind you, it’s not as if giving them one of the best views at OT for years has worked reciprocally, so i’m inclined to at least give this idea the benefit of the doubt.

    With regards to the fear of things being thrown. Whether or not it’s a realistic possibility, the fear of it itself is definitely real and therefore will make those sitting under the new away fans (especially for games against rivals) sit there all game worried about the possibility of it, at least until the first few rival games pass (hopefully) without incident. I was encouraged by the row of stewards sitting at the front of Tier 3, and the couple of rows at the front they covered with Mesh to keep Villa fans away from the overhang though.

    @StrettyArmy You can register your interest by emailing [email protected] or wait for the official annoucement from United. @Tufty will know more.

  6. I was one of the fans moved from tier 3 for the villa experiment and by all accounts the banter between the fans was decent and did improve the experience for a lot of the fans that did not get moved. I’ve had my season ticket up in tier 3 for five years and I love it. The season ticket holders that sit around me all feel the same. The reason we all sit up there is for the view and a lot of them are unhappy about the prospect of being forced to move.  

    I’ve seen a few references to tier 3 being “up with the gods” and it being “hard to tell who is who” but take it from me it’s not true. Anybody that says different has never sat up there. The only thing that has ever been an issue is the atmosphere. Not just the atmosphere from tier 3 but the entire stadium. I’ve often thought I was the only person watching the match, no noise travels up there from the rest in attendance. All the people talking about acoustics and what not are spot on. 

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say away fans would be lucky to sit up there but it’s certainly nothing to complain about! I’m pretty sure myself that it will improve the whole atmosphere inside Old Trafford so I am willing to give it a try and ship off to the singing section! 

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