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All the talk in recent weeks has been about sections for fans in Old Trafford. In an attempt to improve atmosphere there has been trials of a singing section, which will continue in the coming weeks. We have also seen the possibility raised in the last week of a ‘teenage’ section with reduced ticket prices and a chance for the next generation of fans to grow into match going United fans.
So going forward what should the focus be on in terms of getting fans and atmosphere into the ground?
I have only ever had 2 full time seats in Old Trafford since I first acquired my season ticket in 1996 at the age of 13. I was in the Family Stand with my dad and brother, who was 9 at the time. As we were together it wasn’t until my brother turned 16 that we were moved out of the family stand and into our current seats in the 2nd tier Stretford End.
Having any sort of ticket to watch my team in the flesh was a blessing but it’s fair to say that the family stand was a sanatised way of watching the team in the ground. By the time i was 15/16 I wanted to be in the parts of the ground where the singing took place and you could really get behind your side. I longed to get into the Stretford End proper or in the Scoreboard End to join in the singing. It would be 3 more years before that came to pass though so I missed out on the formative years of a young football fan, the time when you really learnt how to support your team in the ground.
The ground has struggled for atmosphere in recent years and it’s a collection of things that have led to that situation. The average age of the fan in the ground has risen, we are now looking at a middle aged crowd rather than a young one. The crowd is now from further a field with many fans only attending games as a one off, this can lead to them taking everything in rather than contribute to it. The final reason I feel is that we’ve had it just too damn good over the years, many fans turn up expecting to be entertained and complain when it doesn’t happen but don’t get behind the team in the first place. This is the first season in a while where the fans at Old Trafford have been noticeably more vocal whereas our away fans have been magnificent as usual.
The Singing Section idea is a noble one and is at least an attempt to try and create a more consistent match day atmosphere but it is missing the point that is the biggest concern, we don’t have younger fans coming in who will carry the singing on.
If fans are moved into the singing section from differing areas of the ground then you get more volume in particular area but how likely is it that younger fans get the seats they vacate? I don’t see it happening if i’m honest.
Now if you were to give the younger fans an area to go together, a teenage section, then you are potentially killing two birds with one stone. You will still have the fans around the ground who can continue to sing but you give the teenage fan a chance to go to games, build up match day friendships and improve the atmosphere for the next 20 years rather than the next 3/4.
We shouldn’t be looking for quick fixes in improving the match going fans in the ground but we should be looking to make sure that the next generation get the opportunity to watch their team. Supporting the team evolves with each new generation and if we miss out on the next set getting their chance to follow the team then we may lose them forever.
It’s not about giving fans cheap tickets for games the club know they will struggle to fill but making sure those fans can get in each and every week.
One thing I notice more and more when I referee kids on a Saturday morning is many are having to go to lower league games to see live football. If we want those fans at United when they are into their 20s then they must be brought in earlier. If the club don’t act then they may just lose them permanently.
At times the Singing Section has seemed like a vanity project for some to remain involved, these would be better served getting the kids into the ground and letting them back the side.
We shouldn’t need a singing section or a teenage one but if I had to choose one then I think we need to look at the bigger picture and choose teenage. Let’s secure the clubs vocal support for the future not just for now.
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