Rio Ferdinand expects more protests as fans try to force club owners to listen

His old club Manchester United’s match against Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after a peaceful planned demonstration escalated into violence.

By Press Association Published: 4 May 2021 - 5.17pm

Rio Ferdinand is expecting further fan protests and believes the tribal divisions between supporters are being set aside in a common cause – to force club owners to listen.

His old club Manchester United’s match against Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after a peaceful planned protest escalated into violence and an invasion of the Old Trafford pitch.

Ferdinand did not condone the violence which left police officers injured, but understood where the discontent has come from, and why it is likely such protests will be repeated.

“I’m with the fans,” he told Vibe with Five.

“We don’t want violence and I’m not condoning violence or any type of lawbreaking at all, but these fans have been shunted aside (and told) ‘you’re not a thought, you’re not a consideration’.

“(The protest) is the response you get when things like that happen, when you try and take over a club, and take it away from the fans and think the fans don’t mean a thing.”

The protests followed the aborted attempt by the Premier League’s Big Six along with three clubs each from Italy and Spain to launch a European Super League on April 18.

The response of fans has been widely cited as one of the key factors in the ESL’s swift collapse and Ferdinand believes there is now a realisation among fans of the power of working together.

“What you will see continuously is more and more football fans coming together on something like this,” he added.

Manchester United fans make their way into Old Trafford as they protest against the Glazer family
Manchester United fans make their way into Old Trafford as they protest against the Glazer family (Barrington Coombs/PA)

“I don’t think it’s going to be tribal and that certain people are going to point the finger at Man United. People see that this was almost a criminal act on football fans.”

The Government’s response to the ESL news was to launch its fan-led review, which supporters’ groups hope will lead to changes in the governance of the game.

The purpose of United fans’ peaceful protests on Sunday was to speak out against the owners, the Glazer family, and try to hit them in the pocket.

However, football finance analyst Dr Dan Plumley from the Sheffield Business School warns American owners have historically been very resilient to external pressure.

Joel and Avram Glazer have so far resisted pressure to force them out of United
Joel and Avram Glazer have so far resisted pressure to force them out of United (PA)

“One thing we know from history with American involvement in football clubs – and we’ve seen it at Arsenal – they do stand their ground, they are pretty stubborn,” he told the PA news agency.

“That is rooted in the way their sports are run. (Arsenal owner) Stan Kroenke picked up the Rams (NFL team) and moved them (from St Louis to Los Angeles) and nobody can tell you you can’t.

“You upset a full state by moving it, but if you’re prepared to do that then you can do it – you’re the owner. That’s just not the English model and that’s been the cause of the friction over the last few weeks.”

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has urged the Glazers to adopt a four-point plan, which includes the immediate appointment of independent directors to the board “whose sole purpose is to protect the interest of the club as a football club, not its shareholders”.

Greater Manchester Police said on Tuesday afternoon Michael Anthony James Cusker, 28, had been charged with throwing fireworks in a street, use of threatening behaviour and wilful obstruction of the highway following the section of the weekend’s protest outside The Lowry Hotel, where the United team were staying.

Cusker, of Winstanley Road, Manchester, was bailed to appear at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court on May 25.

The force spokesman said the incident had been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to “ensure complete transparency and independence”.

BT Sport Monthly Pass

Join the home of live sport for just £25 per month. Get instant access to the BT Sport app, with no contract and no BT broadband required.