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MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB
SUPPORTERS' CONSULTATIVE FORUM

Minutes from the Meeting held at Old Trafford, 11.30 am
Saturday 5th May 2001.

Attendees (in alphabetical order), including their place on the Forum:-

Adams, Mike - IMUSA
Alsop, Geoff - Season Ticket Holder
Bird, Graham - Season Ticket Holder
Burton, Robert - Private Box and Executive Suite Member
Cawthra, Shirley - Over 65 Year Old Supporter
Cohen, Andrew - Season Ticket Holder
Crick, Michael - Shareholders United
Downs, Phil - MUDSA
Draper, Peter - Group Marketing Director, MUFC
Gill, David - Deputy Chief Executive, MUFC
Harverson, Paddy - Director of Communications, MUFC
Heard, Arnold - Carlisle & District Branch
Kenyon, Peter - Chief Executive, MUFC
King, Terry - Swindon Branch
Ramsden, Ken - Assistant Secretary, MUFC
Regan, Andy - Forum Chair (Electoral Reform Services)
Reid, Martyn - Club Member
Walker, Trevor - Family Stand Season Ticket Holder
Wewiora, George - Club Member
Wilson, Mike - Forum Secretary (Electoral Reform Services)
Worton, Norma - Leamington Spa Branch
Wroe, John - Club Member

Mike Adams is replacing Dave Kirkwood from IMUSA as a reserve for this meeting.

COMMENTS ARE ATTRIBUTED TO EITHER THE SUPPORTERS ON THE FORUM (FANS), AN OFFICIAL OF MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL CLUB (CLUB), OR THE CHAIR (CHAIR).

1. RECORD OF MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING

Previously conducted via email.

2. MATTERS ARISING FROM THE LAST MINUTES

There are to be 500 seats in the East Stand lower, which will become available for 11-16 year-old Club members exclusively. Are there cut-price tickets already for youth supporters, and if so are the 500 in addition? (Fans)

2,000 junior members already get in with cut-price tickets. The 500 seats in the East Stand lower will be in addition to this. (Club)

Under the new seat-swap arrangements, is it possible for a season ticket holder and LMTB member not to have to swap status where they have exchanged seats? (Fans)

The supporters currently do swap status. Any alternative needs to be addressed with Karl Evans. (Club)

A block of seats has been identified as having been booked through a travel company. One of the occupants of these seats claimed to be amongst a party of 200 people. What has been done to stop such large-scale touting? (Fans)

Once the seats were identified, they were confiscated from the people that had been allocated the LMTB's originally. (Club)

Could MUFC be given the resources to stop this blatant abuse from happening again? They may be getting them through the Club(Fans)

The Club totally refutes any suggestion of their staff being in any way involved. There is Club liaison with the police, and action is taken when information is received. Members who sell their seat on to a travel company are subsequently banned from the Club. (Club)

There seems to be some consensus for the Forum to discuss ticket related matters at the beginning of next season. (Chair)

The Club also wants to report back on other issues raised at past meetings. For instance, it has recently placed a mirror in the ladies lavatory as a result of a Forum request. (Club)

It has also put lines on the floor to help the queues to the kiosks (monitored by both CCTV and on the ground - with positive feedback). (Club)

There are now 41 female stewards out of 400, which is comparable to the percentage of female supporters that the Club has. (Club)

Also Sky's position on the Monday night away game situation (where games at that time would not be held more than 50 miles away for fans) was never written into the original contract. (Club)

Is the Club charter going to be re-published to include safety in it? (Fans)

The Club charter is to be published annually as it is a work-in-progress. (Club)

3. RESEARCH

MUFC has just received the results of the research survey. Supporters' main concerns were over safety, and the Club has a number of new initiatives on this subject. The need for a better scoreboard was also raised, and the Club is proud to announce that four new state-of-the-art scoreboards will be installed imminently.

Only 4% believe that attendance at matches does not represent value for money. (Club)

The survey has shown a willingness by the Club to listen to its supporters, and will be conducted annually. (Club)

4. PUBLIC RELATIONS

There are two public relations issues - how the Club handles its communications, and public perception of the Club. The Club obviously has far more control of the former. The fact that the Club is so large, and so successful at present, makes "knocking" all the more likely. (Club)

One of the most annoying myths is that City are the main Mancunian club in terms of support. Can the Club challenge this? (Fans)

A survey in the Manchester Evening News revealed that United supporters outnumber City Supporters by 2:1. This however was not taken up by any national newspaper, which underlines how hard it is to redress the Club's image. Newspapers often seem unconcerned with reporting the facts at the Club. Inaccurate rumours - which the Club has gone out of its way to correct - are still often printed. (Club)

Peter Kenyon should be commended for going on Radio 5 to refute a whole tranch of rumours last weekend. (Fans)

Unfortunately this can't be followed through every time. However it may be possible to restrict reporter access to those that are accurate with their facts. (Club)

The Club often doesn't help its public image. For example, it imposed rigid conditions for the information it provided to the "Rough Guide" to MUFC. This seems a heavy-handed approach when the book was promoting the Club . (Fans)

Also, a Club newsletter should be sent to all supporters. (Fans)

There is a newsletter three times per year, but it has to be collected by fans.
We think it is generally well publicised. (Club)

During a minute's silence recently at Old Trafford, all was quiet except for the noise emanating from advertising hording. This looked bad for the Club. (Fans)

This was unfortunate and will be redressed in the future. It is difficult to anticipate all possible noise factors until one of them breaks the silence. (Club)

A film about the Club was shown recently at the Trafford Centre. However it was technically poorly made. Surely the Club could have contracted more professional filmmakers. (Fans)

The film was produced in the style of a TV documentary, with the filmmakers hired due to the trust that the players have in them. This prerequisite inevitably restricts the options. (Club)

5. MERCHANDISING

The policy of the Club is to provide the best quality merchandise to its fans. Merchandising is a way of communicating with the supporters. Nike is recognised as the best and is also global. The Club therefore anticipates a very healthy alliance with them. (Club)

There have been concerns over Nike's use of child labour, which, amongst other causes for concern, would breach the Club's charter. (Fans)

There have been allegations against Nike in the past, but its compliance with child labour laws is now excellent. 550,000 people make Nike-branded goods worldwide, and wherever child labour is involved, the organisation confronts it straight away. The Club is satisfied that Nike are doing all they can - and therefore the charter is not being breached. Through our work with UNICEF, we try to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place. There will also be a full time Nike compliance officer for our goods. (Club)

What has happened to the Club's video diary, which used to be on regular sale? (Fans)

The product was not doing well, probably due to so much access to information from other sources. It has therefore been discontinued. (Club)

The new Centenary Kit is looks great, but why aren't there kit shirts especially for women? (Fans)

Two years ago the Club introduced a women's shirt for sale, but it was discontinued due to poor sales. (Club)

The Megastore does not seem to have the same exciting range of products as it did a few years ago. Why is that? (Fans)

Unfortunately, the Club has learnt that the economics of the store does not allow for a huge range of goods. However, the Club is working on devising new products, which can provide greater diversity for fans. (Club)

Can the badge have the words 'Football Club' reinstated? (Fans)

Unfortunately not, as the current badge is all part of the trademark. Part of the reason for its introduction was to combat black-market products. (Club)

Can past match programmes be on sale at the Megastore? (Fans)

The Club tries to produce the right number of programmes for sale on the day of a match. However, there is no reason why any surplus that does exist can't be sold there later. (Club)

Can the Club say something about the recent tie-up with the New York Yankees. What was the attraction, and what does it involve? (Fans)

In keeping with our merchandising policy - indeed our policy in all things - the Club wanted to partner the best and the Yankees are the best in the United States. They have a huge fan base, and are synonymous with success and the history of their sport. (Club)

The partnership will bring brand awareness to North America. The Club also plans to work with them to market a pre-season tour of North America in 2003. The Yankees have been very successful in setting up these types of events. (Club)

Can the Club do more to promote girls and women's football? In the United States it is big business. The emphasis could be on developing it in schools to raise its profile. (Fans)

A lot of girls do go through our schools programme. (Club)

Can the "United Review" be improved, as it seems to have more and more adverts. Also, are directions to away games really necessary? (Fans)

The Club is looking at ways to improve the match programme. It is a traditional product that does a good job but could be better. Abolishing the directions to away games would result in fierce criticism. (Club)

6. STRUCTURE OF THE FORUM

(Two documents were redistributed:-

  • Division of Places on the Forum
  • Forum Aims and Objectives)

One fan has written to ask if a position could be created on the Forum for an ethnic minority spokesperson (letter already circulated). What are the views of the Forum on this? (Chair)

The Forum members don't represent specific interest groups, outside the categories of supporters established by the Club for ticketing (E.g. season ticket holders, members, family stand etc.). The only exceptions are the established supporter groups such as IMUSA and Shareholders' United. Hence there is no women's seat etc. The introduction of an ethnic minority representative may also create problems with regards to which minorities should be covered. The Forum is sympathetic to the issue, but feels it is already covering such issues as the diversity of food at the ground, and better community relations. (Fans)

The Club would like to set up a Youth Forum to deal with youth issues. This would be a more relaxed and informal meeting, which should generate a more positive input from the under-18s. (Club)

This is a good idea as they could be intimidated if included on the Fans Forum. (Fans)

The Forum is also, according to present rules, due to "retire" half of its members at this meeting. This would allow the introduction of new views onto the Forum in a two-year rotation system, whilst retaining some continuity. (Chair)

The Forum has only relatively recently been up and running and it would be detrimental if members were voted off so soon. Perhaps such a process should be postponed for a year? (Fans)

The Club has not got a problem in postponing the change of members for a year. It would indeed be a shame to change membership at this early stage. (Club)

Should elections be introduced to legitimise the representation of fans? Forum members are not here to represent the interests of others, however, and thus elections are unnecessary. Legitimacy is gained from being fans in the first place. The current system of selection also reduces the possibility of interest group domination. (Fans)

(Various options were proposed and voted on by a show of hands, as follows:-

  • Re. the introduction of an ethnic minority representative: rejected;
  • The start of the changeover process to be held over for one year: agreed;
  • The fifteen members of the Forum being divided into thirds for replacement, E.g. five per year, for greater continuity: rejected;
  • The introduction of elections for all supporters: rejected.)

Could the number of meetings be increased for next season? (Fans)

The number of meetings should stay scheduled for four next year, but special topics might warrant an additional meeting, E.g. ticketing this year. (Club)

7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Why was the rugby Super League final not at Old Trafford? (Fans)

The Club did not want to ruin the pitch and therefore did not take on any more matches for this season. (Club)

The Club should be congratulated for setting up the Fans Forum. Thanks should also be made to the Chair and the Secretary of the Forum. The initiative is a positive move forward for the Club. Have other clubs established them? (Fans)

All have to undertake some form of consultation under Premier League guidelines. Two other have set them up /are setting them up through our organisation. (Chair)

The Club would like to underline its appreciation to all the members of the Forum for their useful contributions this season. (Club)

(Forum meeting closed at 2.00 pm.)