It’s approaching the end of 2020 and I haven’t been to see United since March – 8 months devoid of trips to Old Trafford, around the country or across Europe. The 2020/21 Champions League group stage has started without away fans and neither that nor the domestic competitions seem likely to be allowing supporters in any time soon.
Nostalgia is very prevalent in popular culture, from remakes of classic films and music group revivals to celebration of a brand’s history. Football is no different, with fans constantly looking back at the “glory years” or a period that they remember fondly.
England’s largest club stadium, Old Trafford, is home to the most successful team in the country, Manchester United. The 75,000 capacity ground, which is up there with Europe’s largest football stadiums, has been witness to countless triumphs over the decades. Millions of supporters travel to Old Trafford each season and there are plenty of reasons to visit.
Europe is home to some of the most famous world football stadiums and teams. A mix of modern and newly built stadia, and historic grounds which have evolved over the years. Football stadiums are now designed to meet the needs of a diverse crowd, with safe standing areas just as important to clubs as the concourse and facilities. For fans and the teams themselves, the atmosphere is the most important factor, to help performances and generally show support.
With the 2016/17 Europa League victory, United became the fifth team to win the UEFA ‘European Treble’ after Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Juventus. It’s a feat that comprises of the Champions League, Europa League and Cup Winners Cup, and one that few teams can still achieve due to the latter competition being defunct.
One of the bigger debates relating to football fans currently is the topic of Safe Standing. With fans wanting to improve atmospheres in grounds, as well as allow for safer conditions, there’s a lot of momentum behind the campaign. It’s been debated in Parliament and more clubs are taking note of the clear advantages of introducing safe standing areas in stadiums.
For many English football fans there’s little chance to see their team play in European competition; it’s why the supporters at England away games are often from lower league teams. We’re lucky to be able to do that with United, seeing them play in so many countries whether in competitive matches or preseason friendlies.
Whilst there is much focus on the most expensive football tickets, there is little commentary on the other end of the scale, the cheapest tickets. There is a growing focus and efforts to fight the inflation of football tickets both domestically and in Europe, with the FSF’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign one clear success, leading to the £30 cap on Premier League away matches.
The 2017/18 season saw United receive almost £150m in prize and television money. Their 2016/17 accounts show that gate and match day income was £107m, whilst there was a £49m profit after all turnover and costs. There’s more money in football than ever, and the fact that the television deals are more valuable to clubs than tickets shows that there’s room for clubs to consider fans and the rising costs we’re faced with.
Ahead of our trip to Macedonia for the UEFA Super Cup, I spoke to some local fans who run the website Manchester is my Heaven (http://manchesterismyheaven.com). Here’s a copy of the Q&A I did with them which was first published (in Macedonian) – http://manchesterismyheaven.com/ekskluzivno-intervju-dzoni-penington