Netting in front of away fans could be a permanent fixture at Manchester Unitedafter a smoke grenade was hurled at disabled supporters.
The away section at Old Trafford is directly above the area for disabled fans, who in the past have been struck by a missiles including coins, urine-filled bottles and umbrellas.
Now, after a smoke grenade landed next to a number of wheelchair-bound spectators at this season’s clash with Wolves, United officials are examining ways to keep fans safe.
Following complaints, United installed high netting for the Champions League fixtures against Juventus and Young Boys to great success.
Stadium staff are now carrying out a review and the nets could be in place for good. One solution may be to use the netting at selected matches where there are concerns that objects may be thrown from the away end.
Club officials believe that the flame-resistant mesh does not impact on away supporters’ view and see it as useful in helping to keep fans safe.
United’s disabled supporters group has welcomed netting and would like it to become permanent.
They say that, on occasions, chocolate bars, pies and disposable lighters have rained down on them and that when Michael Owen scored the winner in the 2009 derby against Manchester City, £13.48 was collected in coins that had been thrown.
The away section at Old Trafford (pictured) is directly above the area for disabled fans
There is no Premier League rule which prevents the installation of netting and the matter is one for United and their safety advisory group, who deal with such matters at Old Trafford.
Netting is commonplace at a number of grounds in Europe. In Germany, it features at many top Bundesliga sides and can be removed quickly in the event of an emergency.
On a number of occasions at various grounds players have had objects launched at them from the crowd. At last weekend’s North London derby a Tottenham fan in the visiting section threw a banana skin at Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He was subsequently charged by police and has been told by Spurs that he will be given a lifetime ban.
Meanwhile, United are also looking at creating a 4,000-strong youth/atmosphere zone in a bid to raise noise levels at Old Trafford. Subject to demand, the section could be in place for the 2021-22 season.
Next season, 1,200 supporters will be moved from the current singing section to the Stretford End, which would host the area.