Manchester United protest Q&A: When will Liverpool match take place and will the club be punished?

Manchester United fans angry at the Glazers’ ownership and their part in the aborted breakaway Super League stormed Old Trafford on Sunday, causing their game against Liverpool to be postponed. 

Talks are under way between the Premier League and the two clubs about rearranging the fixture, while Greater Manchester Police have launched an investigation. 

Here, Jeremy Wilson answers the key questions. 

When will the Manchester United v Liverpool game now take place?

The Premier League has never previously been forced to call off a fixture due to fan protests. It must now liaise with the two clubs, as well as the police and local authorities, to find a mutually acceptable date but there will be knock-on consequences for whatever is decided, especially with United still in the Europa League.

The most likely current option is Sunday May 16, which is the day after the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City, and the week before the Premier League season ends. Liverpool were due to play West Bromwich Albion on that day and this would mean moving that fixture forward to May 12 or 13, causing those clubs to have less from their matches the previous weekend. 

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Will there be disciplinary sanctions against Manchester United?

The Football Association will launch an investigation into the postponement and will liaise with the police and the Premier League in the coming days. United face questions on how fans broke into their stadium after the date, venue and time of the protest was announced on Apr 23. There have been calls for a fine and even a points deduction. Future matches, when crowds return, could also be played behind closed doors. 

There are precedents for disciplinary sanctions following protests about club owners. West Ham United were fined £100,000 in 2019 when fans invaded the pitch during their game against Burnley and the captain Mark Noble was confronted. That match was still completed. Blackpool were also fined £50,000 in 2015 following a protest against their ownership which forced what was their final match of the season against Huddersefield to be abandoned. Blackpool also received a suspended sanction of being forced to play a game behind closed doors.

How will clubs stop a repeat?

There is likely to be increased security at home matches involving the ‘rebel six’ clubs between now and the end of the season. Questions are being asked about how Manchester United fans got into the stadium, amid reports that the gate to the Munich Tunnel was opened. It has been stressed that clubs are responsible for their own security and only pay for policing inside the ground. Two officers from Greater Manchester Police were ultimately injured, with one needing  hospital treatment.

“All these additional costs – more officers, officers brought in from other forces – will fall to taxpayers,” said Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, 

“Obviously the police themselves could have used more force but the outcome probably would have been more officers injured, fans injured. Their primary concern was to try to make sure nobody got injured and no more police officers got injured.”

Why are the fans so angry?

Fans of Manchester United have opposed the Glazer family’s leveraged takeover of the club ever since 2005. Unlike the benefactor model at neighbours Manchester City, the Glazer family have actually used club revenue to help them finance their loans for taking control of the club. Fans estimate this cost to the club at more than £1.5 billion. 

The dissatisfaction has festered for the past 16 years, but reached boiling point after United owner Joel Glazer was one of the driving forces behind the potential creation of a European Super League. United signed up to the proposal without consulting fans and, although they pulled out following a national backlash, fans remain furious at the idea of a competition which would have been largely closed to the English football pyramid.

Manchester United fans protest against their owners before the Manchester United v Liverpool 


Manchester United fans on the pitch


Credit: Reuters

What is happening with the government’s review of football?

The Conservative Party promised a fan-led review of football governance in their manifesto for the 2019 General Election and announced its formal launch last month as a direct response to the European Super League idea.

The review will be led by Tracey Crouch, a former sports minister who commands considerable trust and respect from across politics.

There have been widespread calls for some sort of independent regulator to manage football’s vested interests and also a major review of ownership models, including the current ‘fit and proper person’ test.

James Cleverly, the former Conservative co-chairman and now a foreign office minister, said on Monday that fans had to be “at the heart” of the game following the review.

“[A football club] is a bit like a listed building,” said Malcolm Clarke, the chair of the Football Supporters’ Association. “Just because you own it, doesn’t mean you should be able to do what you want with it. What this whole episode shows is how frustrated supporters are.

“If the ‘rebel six’ have done one good thing for us, they have pushed those issues right to the top of the political agenda. It may well be that this could be a seismic moment for English football when we get the reforms that many of us have been pressing for.” 

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