Officer ‘lucky not to have lost sight in one eye’ amid Old Trafford violence

Manchester United fan protest – Old Trafford
Manchester United fan protest – Old Trafford (PA Wire)
16:56pm, Mon 03 May 2021
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An officer injured when ugly scenes broke out at Manchester United’s Premier League clash against Liverpool is lucky not to have lost sight in his eye, Greater Manchester Police Federation said.

The policeman, with around 20 years’ service, suffered a significant slash wound to his face, according to the federation.

The organisation, which represents the force’s rank-and-file, has not named the officer but said he remains in “lots of pain” and will need an extended period off work to recover.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) previously confirmed that two officers were injured with one officer being “attacked with a bottle and sustaining a significant slash wound to his face, requiring emergency hospital treatment”.

It happened after around 100 fans stormed the pitch at Old Trafford on Sunday ahead of the game in protest at Manchester United’s American owners, the Glazer family.

Stu Berry, chairman of the federation, said: “Our brave colleague went to work yesterday to keep the people of Greater Manchester safe – and he ended up coming under attack. He is incredibly lucky not to have lost the sight in an eye.

“This is not right. Police officers are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and partners. They are sons and daughters. They are human beings who should be able to go home to their families in one piece at the end of their shifts. Not be rushed to hospital.

“We are offering support to our injured colleague and will continue to do so as he recovers from his injuries.”

Mr Berry said police officers needed better equipment to protect themselves during demonstrations following violence at previous protests in London and Bristol in recent weeks.

He said: “Our officers must be properly protected and appropriately equipped with public order gear – including helmets and shields – when policing these protesters.”

GMP assistant chief constable Russ Jackson said it was clear many demonstrators at the weekend had no intention of protesting peacefully as he condemned their “reckless and dangerous” behaviour.

Reacting to Sunday’s scenes, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said that while he “cannot condone” fans’ behaviour, it was important to recognise the “frustrations” they have with football clubs.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News on Monday: “Looking at the scenes that we have just seen on the programme, there can’t be an excuse for that kind of behaviour.”

He added: “So I cannot condone the images that we have seen about storming the ground, but we do need to understand the frustrations that fans have, not just with Manchester United, but with a number of clubs across the game.”

Outside the ground, injuries were inflicted as a group began hurling bottles and barriers at officers and horses in violence which should be condemned in “the strongest possible terms” by football pundits, clubs and players, according to National Police Federation chairman John Apter.

He said: “Yet again we’ve seen a so-called peaceful protest turn to violence with that aimed at my colleagues. Officers were injured and required hospital treatment. This is completely unacceptable.”

Manchester United were among 12 clubs that last month signed up for the breakaway Super League, which collapsed within 48 hours due to huge opposition.

Manchester United fan protest at Old Trafford (PA Wire)

Police said that by late Sunday afternoon around 200 protesters had gathered outside the Lowry theatre and more than 1,000 at the stadium.

Firecrackers were let off outside the ground as protesters marched towards the Munich Tunnel with green and yellow smoke filling the air.

Red fences put in front of the East Stand did not last long as the handful of stewards were swiftly overcome and barriers toppled.

Safety and security fears forced the match, which was supposed to kick-off at 4.30pm, to be postponed. It is to take place on a date which has yet to be set.

Manchester United said it will “work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy.”

We should all condemn violence of any kind and keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said there was “no excuse for the actions of a minority who injured police officers and endangered the safety of others”.

He added: “This could be an important moment to change football for the better. We should all condemn violence of any kind and keep the focus on the behaviour of those at the top of the game.”

The Premier League said it understood the fans’ “strength of feeling”, but condemned “all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated Covid-19 breaches”.

It added: “Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification.

“We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football.”

The Football Association said it is also investigating.

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