NINE football fans have been jailed after a fight at Old Trafford described as the “worst disorder inside a football stadium in Manchester for 18 years”.
The violence between Manchester United and Liverpool supporters involved otherwise “intelligent hard-working” men with respectable jobs.
The incident, which was captured on film by police and members of the public, took place during a Europa League match on March 17 which Liverpool won 3-1 on aggregate.
It was sparked by away fans who had booked seats in a stand reserved for United supporters and started chanting “provocatively” in the 85th minute.
But then they went a step further – by unfurling a Liverpool banner.
This sparked what a judge described as an act of “tribalism” from United fans, who hurled abuse and then used their fists.
But punches were thrown over their shoulders.
The escalating melee, which took place on the front edge of the Upper East tier with a 50ft drop below, was witnessed by families and children.
Police and stewards formed a human cordon to divide the five Liverpool fans from the rest of the stand.
Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court heard it was Liverpool fans Patrick Cowhig, Carl Irvine, Joe McDonald, Ian Mullin and Sonny Parr who sparked the brawl.
The worst of the violence then came from United supporters Anthony Garner,
Jonathan Silverwood, Daniel Ginocchio and Christopher Bullock, who handed themselves in after a police appeal.
The court heard that, having secured last-minute seats in the Upper East tier reserved for home fans, the Liverpool group sat quietly for the first 85 minutes.
Faced with their team’s defeat and their jeering rivals, some United supporters surged forward.
Stewards suffered bruising in the violence that ensued.
Defending the Liverpool fans, one barrister said their part in the violence had been “in defence” and one was left “crying in fear”.