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‘Greed’: Super League plans provoke angry response in Manchester | European Super League

Delivering letters under the bright sun along Sir Matt Busby Way, home to Old Trafford stadium, should have been a dream route for a United-supporting postie. But Mark Haydock, 29, wasn’t feeling very happy with the club that he’s supported “for as long as [he] can remember”. The proposed plan by six leading English football clubs, including Manchester United and Manchester City, to join the breakaway European Super League has provoked anger among many of their fans.

A former season-ticket holder, Haydock hasn’t managed to stretch to the cost in recent years (prices start from £532 for most adults), but said if the plans to join the new league went ahead, he probably wouldn’t bother going to a match again. “It’s just forgetting the fans really, that’s the main thing. It’s just all for money.”

It was a sentiment echoed in more forceful terms by Darren Webb, 50, from Salford. “It’s disgraceful. They don’t give a monkey’s about us fans. It’s all about money and greed.” There was particular fury directed at billionaire co-chairman Joel Glazer, who will become a vice-chairman of the new league. “He’s never said anything to the fans since the day he bought us,” Webb said. “It was always going to happen when these people buy into clubs … The history has been ripped out now for me, you know, the history of coming here and waiting for tickets all night in the rain.”

Darren Webb
Darren Webb: ‘It’s all about money and greed.’ Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

He feared the new league would “destroy football”, but felt that supporters had little power, aside from boycotting the ground. “I still want to go in and see my team, but not lining pockets. I want to see us play Leicester on a cold Tuesday night at Filbert Street or the Walkers Stadium, we’re not going to see that any more. We’re gonna be playing Real Madrid away in Hong Kong, so it’s going to be mad. And I’m not up for it.”

Webb, who used to work in security for the club’s players, said he is also worried about the effect on smaller clubs. “The likes of round here, your Boltons, your Salfords, they’re gonna go to pot.” He now manages the doors at the hotel owned by former players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, next door to the stadium. A season-ticket holder since 1982, Webb missed the club so much he set up a YouTube channel, Webby and O’Neill, alongside the reformed football hooligan Tony O’Neill.

O’Neill, 64, from Wynthenshawe, said the move would make football even more unaffordable. “Football is a shambles. It’s not a working-class game, it’s not the ordinary man’s game, it’s all business, and this is business fighting it out.

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“Every fan who is in a group associated with a club [signed up to the new league] should walk out and have nothing to do with these people – but they should have done that years ago.”

Joanne McGrane
Joanne McGrane said her family might cancel their Sky subscription Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

Four miles away on the other side of town at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, Joanne and Nick McGrane have six season tickets in the family but are not sure they will be attending another match. Joanne, 50, who works for the NHS, said they might go as far as cancelling their Sky subscription, which has been the only way for the City-supporting family to watch matches during the pandemic.

Her 54-year-old husband, a managing director of an IT company, said he was disgusted. “I just think it’s ripping the heart out of football. It’s going against what football is all about in this country.” He believed the move would “ruin football in this country at all levels” and make attending matches too costly and difficult for most fans. “It’s just greed,” he added.

Nick McGrane
Nick McGrane: ‘It’s ripping the heart out of football.’ Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

Fans of Manchester’s historically warring teams finally seem united. Could this be the issue that brings them together? Nigel Bursk, a 55-year-old City fan, said his club still had his trust. He and his mother were paying an emotional visit to the stadium before she received her second vaccination at the Etihad campus. It was their first visit since losing Bursk’s father, a big City fan, earlier this year.

Nigel Bursk
Nigel Bursk: ‘I’m wanting to back it.’ Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

“It wasn’t that long ago that we were at Maine Road and they were in Division Two with Alan Ball as the manager – a few years later they could be winning the Champions League. So they’re doing something right,” Bursk said. “This is a big club. So if they think it’s a good idea, I’m wanting to back it.”

Lee Hall
Lee Hall: ‘the jury’s out.’ Photograph: Mark Waugh/The Guardian

Lee Hall, 49, was also keeping an open mind. The events organiser from Teesside has supported City all his life and pointed out that it’s only the most vocal who use social media. “It’s a weird time at the moment with no fans in stadiums, so we don’t really have a voice.

“I know everyone’s dead against it, but the jury’s out at the moment. Let’s wait until more information comes in.”

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