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 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
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
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
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
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...
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.
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.
Write to the MMC.
Reference Secretary BSkyB/MUFC enquiry MMC
48 Carey Street
Tell the MMC about your concerns and urge the MMC panel to
listen to the views of the fans.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
PO Box 69,
IMUSA 24-hour Phone Line: 0161 839 9941
1 Sumburgh Road,
e-mail: [email protected]
Cheques should be made payable to "IMUSA"