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IMUSA at the MMC

When I joined IMUSA I volunteered to help out in any way I could. But not even in my wildest, Guinness fuelled fantasies did I imagine it would involve sitting in front of The Monopolies and Mergers Commission explaining why Rupert Murdoch should keep his print stained hands off our club.

But this is exactly the position we found ourselves on Friday 11th of December. This was the day we had been working towards almost since our campaign began, but it still took some grasping of what we were about to try and do. As no one (apart from ourselves) had given us a chance of even getting this far we were determined to show that behind the "raggy arsed football supporter" exterior we knew what we were on about.

The previous Sunday we had met up with our legal eagle to discuss how we were going to handle our meeting. We had already had some feedback from IMUSA member Dr Adam Brown which didn't make any of us feel any easier. Adam had been invited to the MMC in his role as Academic/football writer and Task Force member and reported that he was given a bit of a grilling by the panel, which had an almost good cop, bad cop atmosphere. As we had no idea how the meeting would run we decided to stick to specifics. We all knew the arguments inside out, but getting them across clearly in such situations would be the hard part.

The arrangement was to meet in Weatherspoons at 1pm before the meeting at the Piccadilly Hotel. Three of us - Nick "shellsuit" Clay, Duncan Drasdo and myself decided to meet up earlier for some last minute swotting in a coffee bar. I don't think much sank in, but at least the caffeine intake would keep us alert!

Meeting the rest at the allotted hour the mood was very business like. Even Mr Briscoe was quiet (for Steve anyway!). With everyone assembled IMUSA "went to work".

On getting out of the lift at the hotel we were surrounded by a media scrum. It is a shock to find cameras and microphones pointing in your direction and being expected to come out with something sensible, so the rest of us left the "media whores" (? S. Briscoe) to it and waited to be summoned. This was the worst bit. If you can imagine a combination of your worst exam, your driving test and a dentist's waiting room you will get some idea of how I was feeling.

Eventually we were led in to the room. Far from the instruments of torture I was expecting, the tables had bowls of sweets on them, perhaps that nice Mr Wenger had been in before us!

The panel introduced themselves and explained that the meeting should last about 90 minutes, then it was our turn. Andy Walsh's opening speech was excellent and set the tone for the whole meeting, being serious, but not too much. We explained why IMUSA had come into being and some of the other issues that we had been involved with since it's inception.

For obvious reasons the specific issues that we were asked about can't be published here. All I will say is that at no time were we stuck for plausible answers. Far from being a torture session we were able to put ourselves across as confident and knowledgeable about what the panel were trying to find out. (Although I'm not sure exactly what Nick meant when he described how the panel had seen us "interacting" with Leeds fans on their recent 'site visit' to Old Trafford!!)

The 90 minutes seem to pass in no time and we were deep into injury time when proceedings were stopped. We could have gone on for much longer but we had obviously tired the opposition, who ran out of questions!

With a promise to do some research and report back on some specific issues, we departed to the waiting media circus. With interviews completed we went for a "debrief" in Edwards bar of all places!

The consensus of opinion was that we could not have handled ourselves any better, we had done what was asked of us and a lot more besides. Edwards, Booth and co may have dismissed us as irrelevant; the MMC most definitely did not. Whatever happens in March, at least we have given it our best shot.

Mark Southee


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