Updated: Tuesday, 12th November 2019 @ 4:22pm

Interview: No problem with racism at Manchester United despite FOI findings, says Stretford End Flags head

Interview: No problem with racism at Manchester United despite FOI findings, says Stretford End Flags head

| By Will Jennings

The head of a popular Manchester United supporter group has hit back at suggestions the club’s fanbase has a problem with racism.

Andrew Kilduff, who has had a season ticket at Old Trafford since 1996 and runs the Stretford End Flags fan group, responded defiantly to last week’s figures revealing United had more supporters arrested for racist offences at matches than any other English club over the last four seasons.

The data - revealed to the Press Association by the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - showed how United fans topped the table for racially-motivated offences at games between 2014 and 2018, with 27 being arrested over the four-year period.

Leeds United and Millwall fans came out second in the statistics, with both clubs having 15 arrests - just over half of United’s number - since 2014.

“I don’t think I was shocked when I saw the figures really - I think they’ve been used as it’s just Manchester United producing a headline,” Andrew told MM.

“If you’ve got Manchester United as your headline figure it obviously attracts a lot more hits on social media.

“I think there’s a lot more to be discussed than just some headline figures which are out there and what’s been made of it by the media.

“I’ve been watching Manchester United home and away, in Europe and domestically for a period of over 30 years now, and personally I’ve never heard a racist incident, racist chanting or any racist abuse towards players.”

RACIAL ABUSE PREVALENT

The statistics came after a troublesome year for football both domestically and abroad, with England players Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi all being subjected to racist abuse during England’s 5-1 win over Montenegro in Podgorica in March.

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was also the target of a banana thrown during the North London derby in December, while Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha said this month he received racial abuse in ‘nearly every game’ he plays.

However, Andrew remained bullish that the figures - with the 27 arrested equating to 0.0004% of United overall fanbase - do not represent United’s supporters and their attitudes towards ethnic minorities.

“27 is a low figure, and there’s nothing to say how many people have actually been prosecuted from it,” he said.

“If it was something like 2,700 then you’re talking about a bigger figure, but you’re talking 27 over four years, home and away out of about 50 games a season - it’s not as if there’s somebody being arrested every day of the week.

“At Old Trafford you’ve got 70,000 home fans every week - you compare that with somebody like Millwall and then as a percentage the arrest figure is a lot higher for them.

“Sometimes someone might get arrested for something which might perceived to be racist, but when it’s investigated it doesn’t turn out to be any racism behind it, like the Raheem Sterling incident at Stamford Bridge last season.

“If people do say it’s a problem, the figures are significantly low - there are no groups involved at Manchester United who are racially-motivated.

“As a fanbase, it’s a very diverse one that we have at United - particularly in this day and age - and we’re seeing that more so amongst the away support as well.”

KICK IT OUT

Andrew was also vehement in stressing the wide-ranging measures United have in place to prevent racially-motivated abuse, praising the club’s support network in deterring the issue.

Clubs all over the country are beginning to extend their attempts at combatting racism, an initiative intensified by Kick It Out’s Equality Standard scheme that seeks to ensure teams are doing enough to clamp down on abuse.

But Andrew was insistent that United in particular have implemented an extensive series of measures that successfully tackle the problem.

“There are strong channels at Manchester United for reporting incidents, and that’s not just racist abuse but any type of abuse - homophobic or anything which is deemed inappropriate behaviour,” he added.

“You often get sent a text message from the club saying if you’re attending the match and you see incidents of behaviour you’re not happy with, there are anonymous ways of reporting that.

“Before the Manchester derby last season, there was a text message sent to all season ticket holders saying supporters’ behaviour was being monitored for racism.

“There is a number you can text free of charge, giving details of where you spotted any behaviour in the crowd - I think that’s quite proactive from the club to be promoting those channels.

“You get that as part of your charter that comes with you season ticket or your membership - there’s quite a detailed section in there on fan behaviour and what’s expected and what the punishment measures are from the club, and also the punishment from the police as well.”

In light of recent concerns over England fans’ behaviour in Porto ahead of the UEFA Nations League semi-finals, Andrew also addressed supporter behaviour abroad when United take on other European heavyweights in the Champions League or Europa League.

“Even in European competitions you don’t hear racist chanting or racist abuse aimed at local supporters,” he explained.

“The hardcore United fans who do go to those games are well-educated in travelling across Europe and respecting the locals, and knowing what the consequences are if they don’t do that.

“It’s very self-policed amongst United supporters - you don’t see the sort of incidents that you get with England abroad where they’re fighting or antagonising the locals.

“And if you look at United’s team, there’ve always been black players in there from as far back as when I started watching United in the 1980s.”

For more information about racial discrimination in football or Stretford End Flags, you can visit kickitout.org or @SEF_MUFC on Twitter.