Millwall supporters who were denied entrance to the Etihad Stadium as neutral fans have had their complaint upheld by the Independent Football Ombudsman (IFO).
Retired schoolteacher Nick Weavis, 65, originally travelled to the north west with a group of friends, a mix of young and old, on December 12th to see Millwall take on Oldham but that match was cancelled due to heavy rain.
Rather than waste a trip the group decided to go to Manchester to see Manchester City play Swansea City at the Etihad Stadium. When buying tickets the cashier learned that they were Millwall fans, only then were they refused sale.
Nick complained to the club about this treatment but the club dug in, insisting that the group were refused entry on police advice – something the IFO has now dimissed.
A Freedom Of Information request to Greater Manchester Police, submitted by a Manchester City fan, revealed no such police advice was given.
“The IFO believes that the Club’s handling of the complaint could have been much better,” IFO Professor Derek Fraser says in his report. “A simple ‘sorry’ for what happened might well have concluded this whole saga at an early stage.
“However, the Club’s letter of 19 February left a lot to be desired.
“Not only was it wrong in attributing the refusal of entry to police advice, a position which was maintained until the police’s reply to the Freedom of information request, it was curt in its peremptory dismissal of the complaint, which led to its escalation to the Premier League.”
Nick approached the FSF in January for assistance after his initial complaints to the club led nowhere. FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks provided contacts at the club and Premier League, as well as assistance in drafting correspondence.
Despite lobbying key contacts at Manchester City on Nick’s behalf, the club refused to alter its stance.
Amanda said: “This one of the lengthiest complaints I’ve been involved in, but one of the more rewarding not least because of the David and Goliath nature of the story.
“At no point did Nick want to give up his quest for a simple apology – of course we were happy to support him throughout the process even if it was frustrating at times.
“As we’ve said many times before many fans have an ‘expect and accept’ mentality and shrug off poor or unjust treatment. Given the outcome and the recommendations made by the IFO, this case proves more than ever that it is always worth speaking out.”
Upholding the complaint, the IFO also recommended the Premier League produce guidance on how clubs should deal with neutral fans and casual visitors.
Manchester City have since offered Nick and his group complimentary tickets to a future fixture at the Etihad Stadium.
Any fans who feel they have cause for complaint and are unsatisfied with their club’s response can contact our caseworker Amanda for advice and support.