The Real Fan Problem at Manchester City

The Real Fan Problem at Manchester City

After watching City overcome Monaco in one of the most exciting European nights imaginable, it’d be easy to think the next article will be wax lyrical about Pep Guardiola’s side. Or, perhaps to fit in with the mainstream media, it will take away from the spirit shown and focus on the many faux pas we saw and bemoan two poor defences. It will do none of these things but it will attack a certain element of Manchester City, while defending its most important aspect: The fans.

When Willy Caballero saved from Falcao’s penalty, this writer celebrated like City had won the Champions League, such was the level of tension and passion in the stadium. It was a night where the Etihad took it up a notch. The fans feeding off the team’s fight, the buzz energising the players. The perfect example of the symbiotic relationship that should exist between those in the blue shirts and those in the stands.

If the people that have the direct say in City’s success – the men on the pitch – can see the importance of the fan base, why can’t the people that organise the club’s affairs do the same?

The official line from Manchester City will be that the fans are the number one priority: #Together. It’s great marketing, and on some level, there’ll be people that work for the club who believe it. But constant oversight and a lack of corrective action makes one doubt how genuine the words are at corporate level.

Of course, the example last night, and reason for this article, is the continued problem of gaining entry to Etihad Stadium on match day – especially European nights.

To have it happen once is forgivable, twice is disconcerting but no major issue, for it to happen constantly with no cure in sight is sacrilege.

Just like the Celtic game at home, queues zigzagged around the concourse, patiently waiting in lines that needn’t be there but the club refuse to address. Thousands of fans – that have paid full price for their ticket – are expected to miss up to twenty minutes of the first half. All because of City’s arrogance.

Before we go any further, let’s nip the two favourite retorts in the bud once and for all.

Get to the ground with plenty of time to spare.

Fans shouldn’t have to arrive one hour prior to kick-off to ensure access to their seat.

Increased security measures will cause delays.

The extra searches do not slow down or hinder access to turnstiles. They mean the person(s) being searched are delayed by thirty seconds. The queue moves past them, the turnstile never stops turning.

Another, weakly spoken, response, is fans arriving at the wrong gate cause delays. This does happen, and cup games mean new guests or people in different seats, but it does not equate to thirty minute delays. If there is any argument for ticket issues, it’s staff not directing supporters quick enough when their card or ticket is repeatedly jammed into a turnstile that’s displaying a red light. Patience, in this moment, actually saves time.

No, none of the diatribe aimed back at the fans adds up. A main contributory factor is clear: unnecessary redesigns have purposely limited the volume of traffic at preferred gates.

Take the M2 to M1 situation. Once upon a time – before the club started their final corporate solution of hospitality clubs and glass tunnels – allowed fans in the third tier of the South Stand to use both turnstiles. And the traffic flowed, not a queue in sight.

Fast forward to the present day, a wall has been built meaning those gaining entry via M2 can’t walk across to the stairwell for the upper tier. The preferred upper class customer no longer need worry about the upper tier riff raff sharing their turnstile. They can watch them queue instead.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Donald Trump’s comments, it’s that people don’t like walls being built.

The annoying thing about this wall is that it has a lovely set of double doors. The same doors that are opened post-match to speed-up everyone’s exit from the stadium. But, for reasons known only to City – those doors must remain closed until the ref blows his whistle for the last time.

etihad-stadium-the-problem-doorIt’d make no sense to allow the queue to dissipate and direct people once inside. Best to keep lots of people disgruntled, right? And it means staff manning the M2 side get to stand around and avoid work based stress. Excellent for all involved…

etihad-m2-empty-gate

Maybe United fans not being in the Champions League have gotten the last laugh: it gives them a free night to take jobs at the Etihad and help run City’s European nights.

It’s not as if City don’t know how many people to expect or can’t call upon vast experience of running match days. No fan should have to wait thirty minutes to gain entry to a ground. And it keeps happening. Against Everton, as reported here, the staff at the turnstile broke procedure and opened the exit gates to allow fans in. That, obviously, can never be the solution, but by now there should have been one.

Instead City show signs of madness, repeating mistakes, expecting a different outcome, and continue to neglect the working class fan. You can put your mortgage on the fact that if ten corporate visitors were made to queue outside in the cold for twenty minutes into the first half, there’d never be anything that resembles a line of people within a mile radius of Eastlands ever again.

Traditional fans, worried about becoming marginalised, continue to see basic consideration diminish. There’s no suggestion here it comes right from the top – Sheikh Mansour has gone to great pains to maintain inclusion for all City fans, all over the world – it’s the daily heads of office that are guilty of mismanagement, oversight, and a lack of care.

The current entry system (not security checks, the poor use of all turnstile resources) is not fit for purpose. If the people responsible for direction and management of City match days do not use some common sense to remove the current façade, they make themselves as effective as the crippled system they stand by.

Before the decision makers in Abu Dhabi consider further expansion, player acquisitions or ground improvements, they should look at the basic running of Etihad Stadium. There’s a lot of deadwood that needs removing.

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24 thoughts on “The Real Fan Problem at Manchester City

  1. This article is spot on , the club as seemed too have gone fully over to the corporate side , with the people running (not owning ) the club, showing little or no respect for the ordinary fans, so yes time to cut some of this deadwood from the management that run the club side (not playing side), time to get Gary Cooke I think .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kev. We’ll never be able to stop the slip to supporting more corporate interests but if we don’t all come together now to address issues like this, we’ll lose our voice within the club for good.

      Maybe not Cooke, just someone with ears that hear our issues and a mouth that’ll say them at board level.

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  2. Don’t agree with everything in the article. The security checks, whilst in themselves don’t slow the queue, do cause a problem but only because they don’t have enough people doing them.

    Where I enter there are 4 turnstiles but in front of them only two people doing security checks. They are effectively halving the number of turnstiles.

    UEFA rules on alcohol don’t help as more people go to pubs prematch. The concourse is empty before the game compared to league games. However that is another battle!

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    1. Thanks for your points. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the issue of security checks. I can’t see how more people doing them will alleviate the problem in any way?

      The time it takes for a card to be accepted and the system to reset is more than enough to single out someone from the line and allow the next person to pass. They only slow down the select few that are stopped for a check. Not using all available turnstiles is the bigger issue. I feel the club can hide behind “Security” because we are all sensitive to modern day terrorist threats. The reality is, their checks are token gestures and have given them convenient cover for poor planning and execution.

      As for beer on UEFA nights, if you fancy a pint at a Champions League game, head abroad and grab one. Seems UEFA aren’t too fussed about enforcing it everywhere. Allegedly…

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  3. The fact that the club decided to build a glass tunnel to increase future corporate revenue streams in itself I don’t have a problem with.
    However, whoever made the decision to undertake the work after the season had started and not in the summer as is usual protocol wants sacking for gross incompetence.
    Entrance P to the South Stand the queues are a farce every game but particularly on European nights.

    This isn’t helped by some of the clowns the club have employed as stewards/security personnel who seem intent on inflaming an already volatile situation.
    Comments such as “get there early that’s what I do when I go to Old Trafford” and ” you know the situation so it’s your own fault” have been overheard whilst I have been stuck in the queue missing 15-20mins of the game in some cases. As you can imagine these have resulted in the stewards in question receiving volleys of abuse and lucky to escape without worse particularly the smug git who uttered the first comment at the Barcelona home game.
    The club are taking the piss out of us genuine fans and showing utter contempt for the hardcore supporter base.
    If you end up with a ground full of day trippers with their cameras and souvenir shop goodies don’t expect the atmosphere to get better anytime soon as people are getting mightily pissed off with it and loads of true blues I know are thinking of jacking it in.
    And once they’re gone most of them probably won’t be back.
    The club need to realise this before it’s too late….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely agree with every sentiment in your comment. I’m so glad it sits under the article because it sums up the situation, and feelings of City fans that are affected, perfectly.

      I hope someone from the club reads it and understands the gravitas of the situation. Like you say, once people decide enough is enough, they may never come back.

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  4. Whilst I agree with most of the above I feel this fails to address another significant issue and that is the appalling Metrolink service before a game. One full tram after another pull up at Piccadilly Gardens as trams appear to be every nine or ten minutes before a game. In London the underground operate trains every two or three minutes. It staggers me that after several years of this issue nothing has been done on match days. This is one of the main reasons fans are not at the ground on time. We were at Piccadilly an hour before the game and queues for the trams were ludicrous. We ended up getting a taxi and we’re there on time but many would not have been as they would not have had that option.

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    1. There’s no doubt Metrolink cannot handle the volume of traffic on match days to the Etihad. They do put on extra trams but the network clearly can’t cope with the capacity.

      The club will cry ignorance here — while selling Metrolink Travel Cards as part of a season ticket package — and say they can’t influence public transport.

      Short of them funding a more expansive service on match days, or pressurising TfGM to do so, I’m worried they’ll ignore it. Perhaps they could run shuttle buses in tandem with the Metrolink when it’s clear the numbers on the platform are too great to accommodate?

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    2. Couldn’t agree more! Whilst I agree with what the article states I started queuing for the tram at 18:30 and got to the ground at 19:35. If they don’t sort out the transport infrastructure nothing will change!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Gaz. The issue of transport is something that has repeatedly cropped up over the last few days since this article was released. It’s clearly a connected issue that the club need to help fix. Starting a tram journey at 18:30 should be ample time to arrive before kick-off. It seems fans are getting let down in queues before and then at their destination.

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  5. There is a rail line that goes under Ashton New Rd that could be utilised. A bit of investment for a station and laying track to Piccadilly and then onto the new link to Victoria that is being built. What the club needs to do is provide more turnstiles for entry. I personally don’t want to get into the ground an hour before the match. Over priced beer and £4 for a Holland’s pie? Plus I am not allowed to smoke in the stadium and they wont make provision for that. Thank god I don’t go for corporate packages. A lot of money and still can’t smoke for two-three hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The situation at the Everton game was criminal. Opening a gate allowing thousands to poor in, where have we heard this before?? I had to pick up my 8 year old to stop him being swept away. He was terrified, I emailed the club with my concerns and have not heard anything back?
    #lipservicetothefans

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear your son was caught up in the Everton game melee, not an nice experience for a young child. When I wrote the article about that debacle I was expecting some form of response from the club. But nothing. Very disappointed they completely blanked your email.

      Have they got their head in the sand or entirely ignorant? Either way, it’s worrying.

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  7. While i agree with everything in this article i have to say the club are also letting down corporate fans too, my brother flew over from Houston and paid the usual zillion pounds to take his son into the legends suite, what a shame no legends bothered turning up, their offer of compensation? A birthday card signed by Pep. I’m afraid it really is all about the money these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Why is the supporters club so silent on this issue..?? It is time they grew some balls instead of just accepting tickets for away games to keep their silence and hold a vote of no confidence in the person responsible.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The whole thing is a farce! One of the Paris bombers detonated his explosives outside the ground at the turnstile! So City are putting us more at risk with these “security” measures rather than making us safe. Whoever has done the risk assessment obviously hasn’t got a clue. 2 people checking for 4 turnstiles does not work. Equally 4 turn styles is just not enough!

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  10. I have to disagree with you saying the delays are not down to the Security checks. At Entrance G/J there are 4 turnstiles , if there were NO security checks then 4 fans would go through every couple of seconds. I get “screened” by the guy with a wand and this takes approx 15 to 20 seconds depending on whether or not he asks you to remove your coat ! As there are only 2 people screening then basic math tells you that nowhere near enough fans are getting through. ALL four turnstiles are empty for 15 to 20 seconds whilst the screening is going on whilst the queue behind the fans getting screened gets longer and longer.

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    1. I can only speak from my own experience, and it’s good to hear everyone else’s here and across social media. At M, when a person is being screened they are forward of the entry point, the turnstile effectively becomes free to use for the people behind.

      It seems not even the same poor standard is applied throughout the ground, but a series of bad practices to ensure fans are messed about in every conceivable way.

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  11. Very interesting article and one I am sure the club will note. I am not closely involved anymore but I would be interested to know if the fans committee is still in existence? . I set this up in 1999 and it was the perfect ‘check & balance’ for the club. The fans had a voice, we shared ideas and if we got something wrong we were told face to face and had to report back with a solution. Remember our campaign ‘Supporting Our Supporters’? I think it worked. Chris Bird

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    1. Hi, Chris. I’ll be honest, and admit that I’m unsure if the fan committee you refer to is still in existence or in what guise. The avenues I’ve attempted so far have yet to bear fruit. The fan voice you speak off, seems to have been muffled and poorly represented with smoke and mirrors. City View and Cityzens groups appear to have little influence.

      I hope the club do take note, but I’m not confident they will take corrective action.

      Like

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