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The End of the World as We Know It

The advert for Bells Whisky asks "What you have done in the last eight years whilst Bells has been in maturing?" All we need you to do is look back on the last four months and ask yourselves what have you been doing? Have you been active in your opposition to the Sky deal or have you taken a passive role? It isn't too late to do something about it, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is still taking evidence and the demise of Peter Mandelson means that there is a new politician that we can bombard with our views, Stephen Byers.

Don't be one of those who sat on the sidelines and sniped, be part of the rescue deal for what's left of our football club. The beginning of September saw Sky's move for United and the start of the battle for the future of our Club. IMUSA spent weeks canvassing opinion amongst Reds and gathering information about the deal from people in Business and the City, with numerous trips to London visiting lawyers, stockbrokers and politicians. There are those who would still challenge whether we know what we are doing, or if we actually understand the business side of the deal. In truth there is still much we do not understand, but we know enough now to clearly state that Sky need Manchester United more than we need Sky. Anyone who was present at the AGM will tell you that the Board had no answers for the shareholders questions about the deal, you may ask "well so what?" But the Board of Directors were at the AGM to answer the questions of the shareholders who are, in law, the Club's 'owners'.

Some have argued that the time to oppose the growing commercialisation of United was in 1991, if more Reds had bought shares then, the argument goes, we would not be in this situation now. Well a number of Reds did buy shares and followed the advice of Maurice Watkins "to have a greater say in the future running of the Club". For these people to be ignored in the way that the Board did at the AGM shows that their ignorance of the feelings of supporters is only surpassed by their arrogance. But what can we do about it? Simply by the fact that they are richer than most of us or were born lucky they are in the position of power. The same is true of life all over you might say but this is more than just about money that is why so far we have managed to rock the foundations of the ivory towers that these people live in. Without fans football is nothing, if people do not go to the game there is no TV spectacle to sell to the armchair fans. The fans directly generate over 80% of football's revenue. Yet the fans have no say in the way that the game is run.

The resignation of Peter Mandelson apart, the departure of Graham Kelly from the FA was one of the more surprising developments of the last few weeks. There is much talk of revamping the way football is run yet, again, the fans are not consulted - why?

Later this month the Restrictive Practices Court is due to start hearing the case brought by the Office of Fair Trading against the current Premier League TV deal with Sky and the BBC. The OFT contend that the deal runs counter to free competition, that the Premier League is operating as a cartel and that individual clubs should be allowed to negotiate their own TV deals. We could be forgiven for jumping for joy that more money would be coming to United if the OFT win, allowing us to strengthen our position in the English game and take on Europe, yet at what price? Could we trust the current Board to invest in the Club? What would happen to the rest of the league? Yet we cannot throw our lot in with the Premier League as they too have been shown to be untrustworthy, seemingly without a thought for the welfare of the game.

The appointment of Kelly's replacement, the MMC decision on the Sky deal and the OFT case make the next six months arguably the most important in the history of football. So if for the last four months you have sat on the sidelines and not got involved it is not too late but it might be come the end of the season. Act now:

  1. Join IMUSA - send 5 to:
    PO Box 69
    M32 0UZ

  2. Write to Stephen Byers:
    1 Victoria Street
    SW1H 0ET

  3. Write to the MMC:
    The Reference Secretary (BSB)
    Monopolies and Mergers Commission
    New Court
    48 Carey Street
    WC2A 2JT



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