Jeff Dent was one of the Bees fans who came under attack when a protest by Man Utd fans opposed to the owners of the Club got out of control in what’s called the ‘Munich tunnel’ at Old Trafford. The protesters surged forward against Brentford supporters queuing to go into the away fans entrance.
The Daily Mail reported: “Group of Manchester United fans are filmed ATTACKING Brentford supporters as they make their way into Old Trafford – with missiles launched, punches thrown and riot police intervening amid chants about wanting owner Joel Glazer DEAD” .The Daily Mail report included a one minute video of part of the incident.
Here are two stills taken from the video by Story Picture Agency:
Jeff Dent, a retired executive on the London Underground, was at the game and reported back to the Bees United board. Although the video showed stewards and police trying to hold back the protesting fans this was only half the story. Jeff said there had been a period when “the situation inside the tunnel was allowed to continue for several minutes longer with no intervention from police or stewards. It seemed that no one in authority wanted to take responsibility for dealing with a highly volatile and dangerous situation”.
BU decided to take the issue forward. Jeff wrote an eye-witness account of what he had seen and our representative on the Brentford FC board raised it with the Club management.
Here’s Jeff’s account of what happened on May 2nd before the game.
|I arrived at around 7.40 and joined the queue for entrance S22 which was a short distance into the “Munich Tunnel”. The queue at that point was maybe about 30-40 Brentford supporters and was moving in through the turnstiles slowly but steadily. A few minutes after I joined the queue a huge number of chanting Manchester United “supporters” entered the tunnel filling the area adjacent to the turnstile queue, which was separated from the queue by just a line of Tensator type strip barriers as far as I could see. This large crowd were clearly in a highly agitated state and were seemingly protesting about the current owners of MUFC. Their anger, however, quickly turned against us in the queue and various items were thrown at the queue including red smoke bombs or flares. They then started to surge towards the queue crushing many of us against the stadium wall.
At this point I became aware that the queue had stopped moving forward and I could hear people at the front of the queue shouting at stewards inside the stadium to let them in. With some alarm I realised that, rather than allow the Brentford fans to enter the through the turnstile into the stadium and therefore a place of safety, someone inside the stadium had made an unbelievable decision to close the turnstile. As someone who spent my entire career in a safety critical industry, I could not believe that we were now locked out of the stadium, trapped in the tunnel, and were suffering crushing and smoke inhalation. Whilst a fit and healthy 64 year old I was actually in fear for my safety and the safety of those around me which included an elderly lady on two crutches.
Eventually, after about 8-10 minutes, I managed to struggle my way back out of the tunnel to find several MUFC Stewards and police officers seemingly doing nothing other than forming a cordon line to hold back non-protesting supporters of both clubs in order to stop them entering the tunnel. However the situation inside the tunnel was allowed to continue for several minutes longer with no intervention from police or Stewards. It seemed that no one in authority wanted to take responsibility for dealing with a highly volatile and dangerous situation.
After some 15-20 minutes or so, a line of police officers finally entered the tunnel and marshalled the MUFC crowd through the tunnel and presumably to the home supporters’ entrances. However, the distinct impression I got was that the police merely followed the crowd once it moved on of its own volition. When the tunnel was finally cleared of the protesters, only then were the Brentford fans still in the tunnel, and those outside, allowed to enter the stadium. I finally took my place in the stadium some 7 or 8 minutes into the match.
Whilst I was waiting in the area between the tunnel and the police cordon I spoke to a MUFC supporter who was clearly disgusted by this behaviour and said to me “this has happened at every match recently and no one does anything!”. He spoke to several stewards while I was with him who all seemed to take the view that it wasn’t their responsibility to do anything.
Clearly there is a major issue at this ground when the police and club staff apparently know this is likely to happen but seem unwilling or incapable of doing anything to prevent it and deal with it. In my opinion someone could have been seriously injured or even killed in the tunnel. At the very least the stewards at Gate S22 should have done everything in their power to get the Brentford fans to a place of safety as quickly as possible, instead they chose to close off the only clear route to safety.
Brentford FC sent Jeff’s statement to thé management of Manchester United and a correspondence between the two clubs followed. At no point did Manchester United dispute any of the facts in Jeff’s eye-witness report. The correspondence resulted in this statement being issued by Manchester United:
MANCHESTER UNITED STATEMENT
“The points raised in discussions with Brentford have been noted with our apologies for any inconvenience and concerns that you experienced ahead of our Premier League match at Old Trafford on May 2.
The safety and security of all supporters is of paramount importance to Manchester United. We have since investigated this matter fully and we are taking the appropriate steps to ensure this cannot happen again.
The club have an excellent relationship with Brentford F.C. and we look forward to welcoming your fans to Old Trafford for the match which is scheduled on February 25, 2023.”
Bees United is grateful to Jeff, the Brentford FC safety team and the Club’s Business Communications team for their help.