Manchester United tell disabled fan to go and watch Stockport instead
Manchester United have reportedly told a father and his three sons - one of whom is disabled - that if they want to sit together at a match, they'll have to start supporting someone else.
The Daily Telegraph reports that lifelong United fan Martin Emery had applied for tickets for him and his three sons to watch a match.
However, Emery's oldest son, 18-year-old Jordan, is disabled and the Red Devils wrote to him to tell him that they simply couldn't accommodate the family.
"There are some clubs that would welcome you with open arms and possibly ask you to bring as many family members as possible, the downside is it wouldn’t be at Old Trafford, most probably Rochdale, Oldham or Stockport. They have the space and that’s the critical thing," wrote the club's disability liaison officer in an email to Mr Emery.
The problem arose because the family had wanted to sit together - something which Old Trafford does not cater for.
Instead, the club told Emery that he could sit with Jordan, while his other two sons would simply have to sit elsewhere in the stadium.
"I was told that only one carer was allowed to accompany each wheelchair user in the disabled section,” Emery told the Telegraph.
"I can’t sit in two places at once. I thought there may be some solution but they just don’t seem interested. Jordan doesn’t speak but he likes watching football and would love to go with the younger boys."
The Daily Telegraph's story about the Emery family who want to watch Manchester United at Old TraffordEurosport
United have previously claimed that the age of the stadium stops them doing more, though given the huge renovations at Old Trafford over the past generation it's a claim Emery is sceptical of.
"Theatres, cinemas, concert venues were using this excuse 20 years ago,” he said. "When the clubs had to become all-seater, they did it within a matter of weeks. Not one said it was impossible. A wheelchair space takes up more regular seats. It’s about money, isn’t it?"
United gave a statement to the paper explaining their decision.
"The club received a request for a family of four including one wheelchair user and a carer to sit together at a game. We advised that, due to the current configuration of our stadium and in line with stadium safety protocols, we were not able to facilitate that.
"We suggested an alternative with the father (as primary carer) and his son to be situated on the wheelchair viewing platform and for the two other children to be accompanied by an adult in the seating area just to the front of the platform, subject to those seats being available.”
The lack of access for disabled fans is something that could, and should, have been looked at decades ago. But that isn't what really offends here.
Nor is it United sticking to their rules: the stadium is what it is, and until the underlying problems are addressed - and more wheelchair capacity added - then it's clear Old Trafford has to adhere to safety regulations and procedures.
The real issue is the language used in the email sent to Mr Emery. How simple it would have been to send a polite message expressing regret and sadness that the request had to be refused; instead, the message tended towards being a rant in defence of the club's policies, with an outrageous, insulting and borderline callous suggestion that they should go elsewhere.
There is one more hugely revealing thing in that message as well: the suggestion that "they have the space". That is a statement of simply breathtaking crassness: Old Trafford is one of the biggest stadiums in the world; Stockport and Rochdale seat 10,000, Oldham holds 13,000. What the "liaison officer" clearly meant is space that couldn't otherwise be sold to someone else - and that's a very different thing indeed, suggesting that Emery is right. For one of the richest clubs in the world, even wheelchair access comes down to a matter of money.