IMUSA - Independent Manchester United Supporters Association

Behind the windows of Manchester there is an insane love of football, of celebration

- Eric Cantona

IMUSA news

Annual Report 2011

Our primary concerns are for the interests of our match-going fans and we believe that the club’s continued refusal to engage with IMUSA is harmful to that end. We therefore invite the club to contact us to discuss ways in which we can resume working together in this new era for English football.

About IMUSA

IMUSA was founded in 1995 and came about because of the tensions between the fans' natural enthusiasm for supporting their team and the clubs' increasingly commercial approach that required us to sit down, shut up and passively hand over ever increasing amounts of money.

IMUSA is now one of the oldest independent fans’ organisations in the country and campaigns on issues such as ticketing, safe standing, atmosphere and governance. IMUSA also gives help and advice to individual members or other fans who approach us.

Membership costs £5 (the same price it was when IMUSA was first formed) and runs from season-end to season-end. Anyone joining now will continue to be a member until the end of the 2012/13 season. Benefits to members include access to a nationwide panel of lawyers expert in football related matters should this be needed and IMUSA representation for individuals who find themselves in dispute with the club or authorities. An emergency line number is provided on our website.

IMUSA members are also affiliate members of the nationally representative Football Supporters’ Federation and are encouraged to join as individuals as this is now free. The IMUSA chair, vice-chair and press officer all serve on the FSF’s National Committee and so we are well represented.

IMUSA is now in its 17th year and continues to thrive.

IMUSA’s year - 2011

The huge surge in IMUSA’s case work during 2010 caused by the club’s heavy handed suppression the Green and Gold protests eased off during 2011. However, the severe problems highlighted by the treatment of our fans during this period still remain.

CES stewards still do not comply with the regulations imposed on them by their own professional body and regularly act beyond the powers granted to them by an SIA license.

The club still has no ‘due process’ that gives people a right to a fair hearing and continues to use season ticket confiscation as a means to impose de facto bans on fans who often have no idea what they have been accused of.

The Independent Football Ombudsman proved so biased against our fans bringing complaints to him that IMUSA continues to boycott this office.

Manchester United have, at a time when other PL clubs have been voluntarily moving towards closer relations with their fans, been moving in the opposite direction.

This is further shown by the club rejecting several of the ideas put to them by IMUSA since 2005 that other clubs now have plans to implement. These include provision at European away matches of Fans’ Embassies (help and information points provided by fans for fans) of the sort jointly organised by the FSF and IMUSA at the Champions’ League finals in Moscow and Rome and the trialling of purpose designed rail seats in designated safe standing areas (that the Scottish Premier League are also to trial).

Indeed, the club’s relations with IMUSA reached a new low point this year when we were forced to spend several thousand pounds on solicitor’s fees defending ourselves against accusations that arose in direct consequence of our fulfilling one of our main roles, that of giving help and advice to fans in distress.

We nonetheless remain optimistic that this situation will be improved upon.

New regulations soon to be introduced by UEFA will require clubs to appoint full time Fans’ Liaison officers to engage in the sort of consultation with fans groups that has always been required under UEFA regulations and we welcome the opportunity this gives the club to reengage with us.

Unfinished business from 2005 includes the reconfiguration of the pricing structure within the ground that would have seen ticket prices go down for over 80% of fans whilst keeping match day income the same and we still believe Fan’s Embassies to be an important innovation even though the club decided against setting the lead in this aspect of customer care.

The compulsory Automatic Cup Scheme and the removal of the Viagogo facility also remain matters for concern. The exempting of Europa Cup games from this scheme was seen as a positive move in this context, however the club still needs to review its pricing policies if it wants to attract more local youngsters.

Wider Issues

Two thousand and eleven was an important year for English football and for the Football Association in particular, as the DCMS committee put football governance under the spotlight.

IMUSA submitted written evidence to the committee and this argued that football was, from the fans’ perspective, a cultural not a business activity and that it should be protected as such.

Additional evidence was submitted following the relocation of Red Football LLC (the company that ultimately owns Manchester United) to the US state of Delaware, thereby taking the details about who owns this company out of the public domain.

Such a move means that since the owners cannot be unequivocally identified, the ‘Owners’ and Directors’ test (formerly the fit and proper person’s test) and UEFA rules to do with only owning one football club can no longer be properly enforced.

We are pleased that HM Government also shared our concerns and have recommended that one of the conditions in the new licensing system that is proposed should be complete transparency of ownership. Indeed they conclude that “It is hard to see any well-intentioned owner or owners refusing such transparency” and we wholeheartedly agree.

IMUSA’s evidence also raised the club’s refusal to officially engage with us and the DCMS committee questioned David Gill about this. His replies were less than encouraging but we nonetheless view his comments in the context of the time they were made.

That is, before the DCMS report signalled that HM Government also strongly disapproves of leveraged buyouts of the sort used by the Glazers to gain control of Manchester United (meaning that our own objections to this cannot now be seen as being unreasonable) and in advance of new FA and UEFA licensing conditions making it clear that they regard it as unacceptable for clubs to unilaterally refuse to engage with their established fans’ groups and requiring them to actively seek consultation with organisations such as IMUSA.

IMUSA’s relationship with the club has always been that of a critical friend. Our objections to the lack of transparency about ownership and effects of the leveraged buyout on the club’s ability to compete at the highest level remain. Nonetheless our primary concerns are for the interests of our match-going fans and we believe that the club’s continued refusal to engage with IMUSA is harmful to that end.

We therefore invite the club to contact us to discuss ways in which we can resume working together, in this new era for English football.

IMUSA 01/01/12