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Report of the Fans' Forum 22nd September 2001

This meeting of the Fans' Forum was to set the agenda for the coming season, review what had taken place during the close season, review the Club Charter and discuss the issue of standing.

  1. Record of Minutes of the Last Meeting
  2. Matters Arising from Minutes of Previous Meetings
  3. Close Season (Off the Pitch) Activities
  4. Standing at Old Trafford
  5. Review of the Club Charter
  6. Forum Topics for this Season
  7. Any Other Business

If anybody wants a copy of the minutes of the last meeting or rules of the Forum then they can visit as well as the club site.

As a new member I was keen that the minutes of the last meeting and any actions that had been agreed were followed up and not lost.

Youth Tickets in East Lower

There is concern within the club at the little interest that has been shown in these tickets but so far there is little evidence that the new section has been publicised much further than existing club publications. One of the over riding intentions of IMUSA when raising the need for better youth ticketing was to ensure that the club attracted 'new young supporters'. I am not so sure that the separate section is the best way of tackling this problem. As IMUSA have outlined already in the document on ticketing that we submitted to the club last season, younger fans want the choice of where they sit in the ground and far better that the club have comprehensive junior and other concessionary pricing throughout the stadium.

The whole issue of ticketing, prices and other connected matters, is to be discussed at the next meeting. IMUSA's committee needs to re-examine the proposals we made last season and resubmit our ideas; anyone who wishes to have an input to this important discussion should send their suggestions in.

Worthington Cup

As stated last season the club intend to cut prices for any home ties in the WC. This is not being announced formerly until the opposition are known as it is a League rule that both competing clubs must agree price cuts. Admission to the match at Highbury will be at reduced prices as Arsenal and United have agreed to the discounts. It is likely that the adult prices for home games will be cut by up to a third - but don't hold me to that.

Atmosphere and West Stand Tier Two

Following IMUSA's suggestion and the work of the Vocal Fans Campaign (formerly the TTC) the club have agreed to establish a committee to oversee future improvements to the facilities and atmosphere in WT2.

So far the club has installed TVs on the concourses and draft beer outlets and offered help to the VFC to get people relocated into blocks of 'singers'. There has also been agreement that the fans can make suggestions about 'decorating' the stand. The banners at the front have gone down so well that they are now a featured part of the club's stadium tour and the ticket holders in the stand have ideas about how they can make the space under the stand a bit more 'homely'. Suggestions have been made for old Stretford End memorabilia to be displayed on the walls along with photographs and some of the banners which don't currently feature at the front of the stand.

If the improvements to WT2 are a success then the club have said that they will be willing to roll out the changes to other parts of the ground.

Following IMUSA/VFC suggestion the club has commissioned an acoustic survey with a view to improving the acoustics in the stand so that the vocal efforts aren't lost to the ether, the results of which are yet to be produced.

It was reported there has been little enthusiasm displayed for unreserved seating at matches, personally I have never seen or heard of the consultation exercise but it was reported that most fans want things to remain as they are. I was unsure how wide this consultation had been but I am sure that it will be something we will be revisiting once IMUSA have had a chance to look at the matter again.

Pre Season Friendlies &

There was a complaint that the 'domestic' pre-season friendlies were not well publicised and the club has said that they will improve publicity in the future. Those fans who have Internet access will no doubt be excited to hear that club's official web site is currently undergoing a major revamp and the new version should be launched early in the New Year. No doubt just in time for streaming video and other on-line pre pay services.

Club Charter

A number of proposed amendments to the club charter were put before the Forum. Some of the inconsistencies were challenged and Ken Ramsden agreed to look again at a number of points. When the validity or accuracy of certain clauses were questioned the Forum was told that the Charter is the property of the Club and that the content is only referred to the Forum for information and not for debate - which is nice but not much use.

It was agreed however that the Charters issued by other clubs would be distributed in time for the next meeting so that the members of the Forum can compare United's with other Premier League clubs. Whilst there is an understandable debate about how useful the Charters are the idea was a recommendation from the Government's Football Task Force and it is important that the activities of football clubs should be subject to some scrutiny.

The Premier League is shortly due to publish a report comparing the individual performances of all clubs against what they say they do in their charters and across a whole load of other headings. This report should be available next month so if any of you are having trouble getting to sleep a remedy is not too far away.

Future Structure of the Fans' Forum

The announcement of the Forum's decision to spurn democracy in favour of keeping things as they are was received with much gnashing of teeth in IMUSA circles and the whole question of how the Forum is to be run in the future will be the subject of a discussion at a meeting later this season.

At present the Forum is run like a glorified focus group with many fans unaware that it exists let alone know what it does. The minutes and reports of the meeting are publicised on the club web site and in the programme but as less than twenty per cent of the match going support looks at these it is little wonder. IMUSA has already discussed the subject of the Forum's effectiveness at some length and I expect members will want to have their own input to the debate again this season.


A lengthy discussion took place on the subject of standing that danced around the usual problems of reduced away ticket allocations and threats of ground closure but a number of interesting developments appear to have taken place.

The club are said to be pleased with the response from supporters and 'unbelievably encouraged by what has happened in West Stand, it was reported that 'persistent standing' at OT is now greatly reduced. There are a number of reasons why this has happened one of which has been that SPS have been given a lower profile. IMUSA informed the club that SPS were part of the problem some time ago, a view backed up by their own stewards, nonetheless I feel it was still a brave step to take in accepting our advice. Now that it has been seen to work we can only hope that the club get rid of SPS all together.

Peter Kenyon has been to see the new Sports Minister Richard Caborn where standing was a subject of discussion and the meeting was informed o0f the up and coming debate in Parliament around Roger Godsiff's Private Members Bill in support of safe standing.

A representative from the Premier League informed the meeting that the Football Licensing Authority has demanded that clubs take a firmer line at matches this season and it is expected that many clubs will face having their away ticket allocations cut in a similar fashion to United. As many clubs in the Premier League struggle to fill their ground unless United are playing I find it hard to believe that this will actually happen.

The PL representative told the meeting that the FLA wanted a 'multi-agency' approach to the problem of standing at matches this included consultation with the national supporter groups (FSA and National Federation) to which IMUSA is affiliated. However the FLA were not willing to discuss safe standing at meetings with the fans and the consultation was not what could be described as meaningful.

It was interesting to note that despite the Nat Fed's conference overwhelming support for the safe standing campaign the PL stated that the Nat Fed took a different line to the FSA and their support for safe standing during these discussions was less than fulsome, which is an issue that we should take up with the Nat Fed ourselves.

In short the FLA believe in the stick and video approach to solving the problem. Ground capacity and ticket allocations will continue to be reduced if fans stand and publicity material including a video is currently being produced to tell fans why they must sit. A discussion took place about how United might try and 'educate' our own travelling support with letters to home addresses and leaflets handed out with away tickets. Peter Kenyon stated that he would fight to make sure our away allocations were increased if our fans sat down at away games, which is reassuring but surely the least we would expect. What we want is for the club to support the fans call for safe standing areas at matches, offering a choice to those who wish to stand and peace and quiet to those who don't.

The club again refused to be drawn into supporting safe standing but it appears that matters have progressed since Peter Kenyon and Paddy Harverson came to the Shareholders United meeting and a joint meeting of the football authorities and the fans on the subject of standing is to be held in November. The last time we tried to get a meeting of this nature the Premier League and the FLA refused to talk about safe standing and it would be pointless attending this meeting if the authorities simply want to tell us all what we 'need to do'.

A proper meaningful debate is long overdue if for no other reason than to 'educate' the clubs and the football authorities on what it is required and what it is that the fans are proposing. The ignorance on the subject was demonstrated when the PL rep at the Fans' Forum stated that the introduction of standing areas would require 'primary legislation' which even the most junior member of IMUSA will know is absolute piffle.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Fans' Forum will be on Saturday 1st December after the Chelsea home game.

If any member would like me to raise a matter at a future meeting or at any other time they can contact me via the IMUSA web site.