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Fans Vs Murdoch: No contest

In the last 'Campaign News' some of the fans' efforts to date were listed as we claimed victory in winning 'Round 1'. Now 'Round 2' has also been chalked up: Supporter pressure through writing to MP's, Cabinet Ministers and civil servants, and by keeping the proposal in the papers, was ultimately worth more than the tens of thousands of pounds being spent by Murdoch in persuading the government that further investigation is now needed.

What Happens Next

Contrary to the BSkyB 'spin' it was expected by both the club and the satellite station that Mandelson would have nodded the deal through; Everything is now up in the air - a neutral panel sits and wades through evidence provided by BSkyB, the club and the fans. IMUSA are preparing to work on its 'submission', and every supporter is invited to send in their views. Waste of time? Remember the OFT? Next time you're about to write to the club mag or the fanzines, write to the address overleaf instead!

The Lobby of Parliament

The lobby of Parliament demonstrated the friends Manchester United have in high places. Those who travelled down to London were rewarded with a warm welcome by a group of football mad MPs. Almost 100 MPs had put their name to a statement urging the government to intervene - again many signed it after being contacted by fans from their constituency. This kind of pressure cannot be ignored even by Tony Blair - who himself is known to be worried about the future of football. The supporters have made this deal a hot potato - keep it that way over the winter months.

A Rattled Mr Murdoch

Of course, there's nothing BSkyB or Murdoch would like to do more than keep the deal out of the papers - especially now nobody believes that 'Ronaldo' rubbish anymore (do they?)

Why else would they say every development is 'expected' and a non-story? They now find themselves facing up to an MMC inquiry even they are going to find hard to nobble. Hence Murdoch's 'outing' at the BskyB AGM - whilst Edwards insists Murdoch's voice is only one of seventeen on the BskyB board, Reuters reported Rupert as having "lashed out" at the AGM, with just a hint of what he actually expected: "But I think it's very hard on the small shareholders of Sky that they should be punished for the fact that we supported the government at the last election." And Edwards claims one of the benefits of the Sky link up will be their PR???

Why Worry?
Why not give Murdoch a Chance...

Supporters are becoming increasingly concerned about the takeover, especially now that the message is becoming increasingly clear: The only beneficiaries of the deal are BSkyB, Murdoch and Martin Edwards.

Martin Edwards himself appears somewhat vague on the implications of the takeover deal - he seems to believe Manchester United will still be able to vote against any Sky proposal when the next TV contract comes around - I'd like to be a fly on that office wall should that ever happen.

The future for football is uncertain, the European Super League, the possible ending of the Premier League's collective TV deal all offer opportunities for Murdoch to exploit. Contrary to what Mark Booth and Martin Edwards may have to tell you, when Murdoch gets involved in sport the 'benefits' of his involvement are not altogether clean...

In 1994, attendances at Australian Rugby League games were at all time high and the sport dominated the TV ratings. Deciding he wanted a bigger piece of the action, Murdoch tried to establish pay-TV rights for his Australian cable company Foxtel. However, the sport's ruling body, the ARL, had already signed a collective agreement with a rival company.

Undeterred, Murdoch split the sport apart by forming his own league, tempting teams and players away from the ARL and into the new "Super League". An Australian judge attacked the Murdoch campaign - which involved threatening existing teams with locating of Super League franchises nearby - for its "suddenness and deception".

The result was to irreversibly change the game. International players were divided, supporters' loyalties and traditional allegiances were destroyed. Even the financial strength of the game suffered - attendances and TV ratings plummeted in both leagues. The sport is still trying to recover and negotiate a merger to heal the rift. Meanwhile you would be hard pressed to find a British Rugby League fan prepared to extol the virtues of our own 'Super League'.

Manchester United breaking away to form a separate league should Murdoch not get his own way in TV negotiations! A scare story...or does it already sound familiar?

Put the Squeeze on Sky

If you are currently subscribing to BSkyB, your money is, in effect financing Murdoch's bid to buy United. BSkyB's ability to borrow will be set against their capacity to generate income.

Sky's latest 'churn' figures (existing subscribers who have cancelled) stand at 17%. This highlights a volatility amongst their customer base which could be heavily influenced by negative consumer reaction to the takeover bid. Remember the sharp decline in the fortunes of Ratners the jewellers after Gerald Ratner 'insulted' his customer base?

Imagine the effect on stock market confidence in Sky and the attendant cash flow problems that wholesale defections amongst Sky subscribers could generate.

Sky are already so concerned that they have placed dedicated handlers online to talk people out of cancelling subscriptions in the wake of the bid.

There are a number of options that Reds and football fans in general should consider in order to bring commercial pressure to bear on Sky. Firstly, if you are dependent on Sky for your football coverage then you should look to buy it off an alternative distributor, namely cable TV or ONdigital. Secondly team up with friends and neighbours to operate a Skyshare system, whereby the number of subscribers is reduced along with the relative costs, but you still have access to the games you want to watch. Thirdly and best of all, cancel your subscription and watch it down the pub.

Do your bit to up the churn and watch Murdoch squirm.

What you can do now...

  1. If you own shares - Ignore future BSkyB correspondence and hang onto them: Over three quarters of so-called small shareholders have voted against the deal by doing just this.

  2. Why not attend the AGM on Thursday l9th November in the North Stand. Should the deal go through, there may never be another opportunity for you to berate Edwards et al face-to-face.

  3. Write to the MMC.

    David Peel
    Reference Secretary BSkyB/MUFC enquiry MMC
    New Court
    48 Carey Street
    WC2A 2JT

    Tell the MMC about your concerns and urge the MMC panel to listen to the views of the fans.

  4. Write to your MP. At the last count over 120 MPs (from all parties) had signed the 'Early Day Motion' opposing the deal. Ask whether or not your MP has signed it - the more MPs sign up, the greater the political pressure: They do reply.

    House of Commons
    London SWlA OAA

  5. If you do buy the Murdoch press or have Sky TV - watch out for their propaganda, and don't be put off by it. BSkyB are spending tens of thousands of pounds promoting the deal to the MPs the media and the City - not to mention the free publicity in The Sun and The Times.

  6. Why not buy some shares as a Christmas present? Just walk into any large branch of NatWest Bank and buy some on the spot. Wise Speak in Manchester (0161 953 9700) specialise in buying small numbers of shares. These extra shares can make a difference.

  7. Why not lend some support to our campaign - the number helping out are growing every week. Attend one of our meetings, leave a message or send us an e-mail. We need your help wherever you live. If you cannot spare a couple of hours of your time can you spare a couple of hours of pay? We desperately need finance to keep the campaign going, no donation is too small; some people have sent in a couple of pounds whilst others have made more substantial contributions. We need the money for leaflets, administration expenses, postage, phone bills and travel costs. A number of larger projects that we wish to undertake may not happen unless we get the funding. We are currently lobbying everyone in football but we need to maintain the pressure on Parliament and this costs money - don't just ask yourself what can I afford, rather can we afford to lose this fight for the soul of OUR Club?

  8. Pass this leaflet onto fellow Reds.

The Future of Football and Manchester United

Part of the work we are undertaking is looking at how clubs such as Bayern Munich and Barcelona are organised and whether there are lessons to be learned. For as long as people have paid to attend football in Britain, the less you pay, the less amount of attention paid to your views. Once supporters were herded to and from games like cattle, forced to watch matches in sub-standard grounds. Even now, though fans are supposed to be 'customers', where once we were herded, now we are milked through overpriced seating with poor views. United fans have to suffer crazy kick-off times and a board and club management which simply wish we would go away.

Does it have to be this way? The MMC inquiry with its broad remit provides supporters with a chance to find out. As Britain hurtles towards the 'American Way' - sport for TV, franchises, corporate entertainment, have European clubs mastered the art of balancing conflicting financial pressures with the need to retain a soul and stay close to the fans? What does being "The biggest Club in the World" actually mean? Who should benefit - the Chairman? The Season Ticket holders? The City of Manchester or the City of London?

The MMC inquiry is not just about "Yes or No to Murdoch" but the future of the Club and perhaps football itself.

Save our Game and stay United for United

Contacting the campaign

To keep informed about all the latest developments or to make a donation, contact:

PO Box 69,

IMUSA 24-hour Phone Line: 0161 839 9941

1 Sumburgh Road,
SW12 8AJ

e-mail: [email protected]

Cheques should be made payable to "IMUSA"


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