Manchester United have banned a supporter for three years for making offensive comments about disabled supporters after the club announced that 300 new spaces were to be made available for them.
The club revealed two months ago that 2,600 season ticket holders were to be moved to create the new places, which prompted criticism from some supporters who were unhappy about being moved. But three discriminatory tweets by one supporter, seen by The Independent, include the image of a woman in a wheelchair and an accompanying offensive comment. The same supporter, who describes himself as a father-of-three, also tweets an image of a supporter in a Jewish kippah carrying the Manchester United crest, with a mocking comment.
The tweets were considered “inappropriate and offensive” by United, who have promptly withdrawn the individual’s season ticket for the rest of 2016/17. The individual has also seen told that a “three-year suspension on attendance at home and away games” will be imposed.
The extended Old Trafford disabled seating area – to be completed in August - followed consultation with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Manchester United Disabled Supporters' Association (MUDSA). Several supporters' groups expressed concerns.
But the supporter’s abuse clearly goes beyond the realms of acceptable criticism in the club’s view. The supporter has been told that the £190 remaining value of his season card will be refunded and that the decision can be appealed to the head of stadium safety.
The ban has been imposed for a ‘level 2 offence’ of official club sanctions which – among other offences – prohibit “racist, homophobic or discriminatory language.” On social media this week, there were several expressions of support for the club’s decision.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) has expressed concern about the relocation of fans to accommodate the extended disabled area. They have called on the club to provide a guarantee than the relocated fans would pay no more for their new seas until such a time that they could be found a new seat equal in value to their previous one. More generally, the Trust has welcomed the expansion and acknowledged that it takes up the best available area to accommodate more disabled fans.
United demonstrated a commitment to inclusion this week by announcing a partnership with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charity Stonewall. The club becomes the UK's first to partner with Stonewall, working alongside the charity to help tackle LGBT issues in sport and society. Their partnership will include looking at ways inclusion and equality in the game can be improved.
Independent News Service