25 May 2011

Manchester United fan claims 'horrific treatment' over anti-Glazer banner

A 27-year-old fan who claims she was dragged from her seat, arrested and banned from Old Trafford for displaying an anti-Glazer banner, has accused Manchester United of meting out "horrific treatment". The supporter says she missed out on the end of the league season and a ticket to Saturday's Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley.

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Carly Lyes, a trainee social worker and season-ticket holder in the Stretford End who has been going regularly to Old Trafford since she was 11, said she had displayed a "Love United Hate Glazer" banner for "two to three minutes" before the home leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea on 12 April. Lyes claimed that 10 minutes after she returned to her seat a steward told her to surrender the flag and that, when she refused, she was told to leave the stadium.

Lyes said: "I know the ground regulations very well and asked which one I had broken. I was told I'd broken 'all of them'. She [the steward] told me that it was their stadium and, if they didn't want me in it, I shouldn't be in it. I wasn't drunk, I wasn't being offensive, I hadn't sworn at anybody. The police came over and said I needed to leave. They said I had breached the peace and needed to leave. They dragged me down the stairs. I was taken to the concourse, put in handcuffs and taken to a cell underneath the stadium."

A club spokesman said: "The individual in question infringed the ground rules of the stadium and was obstructive and aggressive when asked to comply by the stewards." Lyes said she was taken to Longsight police station and put in a cell before being released without charge when the match was over. She said she was "outraged" by her treatment by the club, which, she claimed, subsequently suspended her season ticket. She said United had since refused to engage with her.

Lyes said: "I couldn't go to the Everton game, I couldn't go to Schalke home or away, or the Chelsea league game." Lyes said she had been to every home match and every European away match this season before the Chelsea Champions League match but had been told she would not be allowed to apply for a Champions League final ticket. As a result, she said, her family would not be renewing their three season tickets. Lyes is taking legal advice over making a complaint against the police.

"After 15 years of support I hate to think how much money I've given them over the years. I've been treated appallingly," she said. "I am absolutely distraught over what Manchester United have done to me and the way they are dishing out such brutal treatment to fans who criticise the owners. They are trying to quell dissent in a way a middle-eastern dictator would be proud of and it's absolutely disgraceful." Greater Manchester Police said they had not received a complaint.

After earlier complaints from fans who claimed to have been ejected from or refused entry to Old Trafford the United chief executive, David Gill, and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said fans should be allowed to protest peacefully. "I was assertive but I was definitely not aggressive. I didn't swear, I didn't raise my hands," said Lyes. She said CCTV footage would show she was not aggressive towards the stewards, who were provided by a private security firm, or the police.

A spokesman for the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association said they had received complaints about more than 100 similar cases of supporters being banned from the ground. The spokesman said: "The real problem is that there is no due process. The club's customer charter has been independently judged as the second worst in the league. The only reason it wasn't the worst is that Everton didn't have one at all. Because of that we have a situation where season tickets are confiscated for arbitrary reasons and the fan has no right to be heard or to appeal."

Lyes said she chose to display her banner at the Chelsea match because members of the Glazer family, reviled by some Manchester United fans because of their debt leveraged ownership model, were due to be present.

The Guardian

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