MANCHESTER, England (AP) — A group of Manchester United supporters have complained to a local government in London after more than 600 fans had their tickets canceled for the upcoming Premier League match against Chelsea because of policing concerns.
Fans learned last week of the decision to reduce the numbers from 2,994 to 2,370, despite tickets having already been purchased for the match at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 22.
Lawyers working on behalf of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust have sent a letter to Hammersmith and Fulham Council requesting it issue a new safety certificate to permit all the fans to attend the match.
“United fans, and football supporters in general, have had their fill of being on the receiving end of unfair and irrational decisions by councils and the police who seem to consider us to be a public order problem rather than ordinary people freely enjoying a day out,” the fan group, known as MUST, said Thursday. “Tickets had been sold for this game and fans are being treated like second class citizens.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played on Oct. 23 but had to be brought forward by a day because of Chelsea’s involvement in the Champions League on Oct. 25.
London’s Metropolitan Police say the 5:30 p.m. start time has heightened the risk rating of the game.
“Our first priority in policing football — and the increasing crime and disorder associated with it — is the safety of fans and those who live and work in the local community,” police said. “This can require significant resources and we have to balance this commitment against our many other policing responsibilities across London.
“For this reason, the agreement in place between the Met and London clubs is that fixtures assessed as high risk should start before 16:45 at weekends to help keep people safe.”
United wrote to supporters last week to inform them of the situation.
“While we are very disappointed by this outcome and believe it is unjustified, it is clear it is a final decision,” the club wrote. “Over recent years, we have made significant progress in protecting away ticket allocations for our fans and we can assure you that we will continue to fight for this in future.”
In the legal letter to the council, issued by Lochlinn Parker, the fans argue “there is no rational reason to reduce the ticket allocation for away fans at a 5:30 p.m. kick off when it is accepted that there would be a full ticket allocation at a fixture beginning no later than 4:45 p.m.”
The Hammersmith and Fulham Council said the decision to restrict the number of away fans from the match came after advice from the police.
“We wrote to Chelsea FC in the summer expressing our concern about the timing of this match,” the council said. “It is disappointing that the football authorities have not been able to change the kickoff time to enable the full ticket allocation for away fans making the journey.”
A Chelsea fan group was also critical of the delay and the change of time for the match.
“Kickoff announced with 15 days notice and away allocation reduced,” Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said. “This confirms that as long as the game can be broadcast, supporters are disposable — this is an insult and sets a dangerous precedent. We stand with MUST and the 624 supporters who will have their tickets canceled.”