UEFA has moved to reassure Manchester United supporters over their safety in Ukraine ahead of Thursday’s Europa League tie against Zorya Luhansk in Odessa after the Premier League club warned travelling fans about security concerns in the Black Sea port city.
United are expecting around 900 supporters to make the journey to Ukraine for the Group A fixture which will be staged in Odessa, 900km from Luhansk, due to the ongoing conflict in the eastern regions of the country.
However, with supporters of Feyenoord and Fenerbahce attacked by rival fans while in Odessa for their group fixtures against Zorya, United fans travelling to the city received letters from club secretary John Alexander urging caution and vigilance before, during and after the game.
Alexander wrote: “Within the last seven days, a considerable amount of intelligence relating to this match and the venue has been presented to us which we would like to make you aware of.
“The stadium is within a short walking distance from the city centre and is located within a wooded park where the lighting is very poor. For your own safety, shuttle buses will be in operation from 5:45 p.m. [local time] departing from Cathedral Square and you are strongly advised to travel to the stadium on these police escorted buses.
“At the previous group stage games in the city, there have been attacks on visiting fans with some in the park around the stadium, so we therefore advise you not to walk through this park to the stadium.”
Alexander went on to urge fans not to wear club colours while in Odessa.
“For your safety and security, you are advised not to wear Manchester United colours when in the Ukraine or attract attention to your presence in the city,” Alexander wrote. “Due to political sensitivity in the region it is not just opposition football fans who may potentially pose a risk to your safety.
“Incidents of serious disorder during the European Championship in France last summer involving violent individuals and groups emanating from Eastern Europe should be remembered when considering your movements and actions, and any potential risk.”
UEFA has closely monitored the situation in Odessa, however, and the governing body issued a statement on Tuesday insisting it is “confident” the game will pass without incident.
A UEFA statement read: “We are confident that the host club together with the local authorities will take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the players, the match officials and the supporters of the two teams.”
Support InfoStride News' Credible Journalism: Only credible journalism can guarantee a fair, accountable and transparent society, including democracy and government. It involves a lot of efforts and money. We need your support. Click here to Donate