With the new season and a return to Old Trafford upon us tomorrow it seems like a good time to update members on progress re: discussions with the club, and also on the Government’s Fan-Led Review.
Club discussionsRecently the club announced the next steps in the creation of a Fans’ Advisory Board and on changes to the Fans’ Forum. We welcome both of these initiatives in principle, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. These bodies must have real teeth, and real influence over club policy and decision-making, in order that we avoid any more disasters like the ill-fated plan for the European Super League. There should also be positive opportunities too with genuine fan consultation on stadium development and other such initiatives. Applications for both of these bodies are open now. MUST will be represented, but we urge individual MUST members to apply too.
Discussions are ongoing with the club in terms of the creation of a fan share scheme. As you will remember, Joel Glazer promised to create the “biggest supporter share scheme in world sport” so he has set expectations high and we are determined to see the club deliver on that. We have made clear that it is essential that any shares issued should carry the same voting rights as the Glazers own shares. The scheme needs to be scalable so that, over time, supporters can build up a meaningful level of ownership with a meaningful level of influence.
As it stands, we recognise there are some technical challenges to overcome and we are working to find solutions. We will update members with specific details as soon as we are able to.
The club have said there will be no artificial cap on the size of the share scheme but we have to demonstrate the demand is there to justify expanding it over time so that is why the Sign For United campaign is crucial so please do invite friends to sign up now. It costs nothing and there is no commitment so there should be no barrier to any United fan signing up. Please ask them to do so here: www.SignForUnited.org
Fan-Led ReviewIn late July, the preliminary findings of the government’s Fan-Led Review were published in a letter from the Review Chair, Tracey Crouch MP. The initial conclusions look very encouraging in some ways, but a little underwhelming in others.
On the positive side, there seems a strong commitment to creating an independent Regulator of football. How important this will be will very much depend on the powers it will be given, but it could put a set of rules in place to make sure club owners act as the proper stewards of their club they ought to be, and stop some of the terrible practices we’ve seen in recent years.
The Review also backed the idea of a fans' “Golden Share” which would give fans a veto over certain key decisions a club might take. Initially, it appears that the golden share could be used to veto things like a change of club name, colours, playing location or the competitions the club enters, but the idea could be expanded to cover broader club finance and ownership issues. We will be pushing for that as the Review enters its second phase this Autumn.
The Review has so far been less enthusiastic about supporter share ownership, although the letter published does include a commitment to review this further. That is probably because only MUST and AST (Arsenal Supporters Trust) put forward ambitious proposals on this front. We believe that the demand is there from fans though - not just at United and Arsenal but across the leagues - to see fans as co-owners of their clubs along with other investors. We’ll be pushing hard as to the benefits of it including via the Sign for United Sign For United portal. We believe that in the long-term this is the only way to guarantee a meaningful voice for fans in how their clubs are run.
So as the new season gets underway, there continues to be lots happening. We know many reds feel more optimistic about our on-field prospects than they have been for a while. And off the field, following the ESL fiasco back in April, there is more momentum for change than there has been in years. If we keep the pressure up, and stay United, both on and off the pitch, then progress could be just around the corner.
Return of Fans As supporters finally return en masse this weekend, things won’t all be quite as they used to be. Digital ticketing is a huge change and we have major concerns for this first game but we’ve done our best to advise supporters how to deal with issues arising through MUST's ISLO (Independent Supporter Liasion Officer). There’ll no doubt be a debrief after the Leeds game and we hope all concerns can be addressed ahead of the next home match.
On a positive note fans will notice the new rail seat area in the North East quadrant (J Stand) which MUST has lobbied tirelessly for, over many years, both nationally (politically) and at Premier League and club level too. We were leaders in the campaign going back to the 90s so this is a special moment for those of us who campaigned for safe standing from the very beginning. So many times over the years we were told we were wasting our time and standing would never come back - we’re not quite there yet - but this is a lesson in how dogged persistence pays off eventually. This is a trial and, should it be successful, rail seating could be rapidly expanded to other areas
In addition, MUST has campaigned for many years to reduce youth season tickets prices. We had a partial success a few years ago when, in addition to the family stand and North Tier 3, they were offered in a few more areas and we addressed the issue of extending the youth age range to mid twenties rather than a big step up in price at 18. Thanks to a boost to this campaign by fans forum members (particularly Rick McGagh) pushing this with vigour this summer, the club has now agreed that youth season tickets in all areas will be at a 50 percent discount.
Finally, many fans were surprised and not especially happy at seeing £5 bottles of Carling at the home friendly against Brentford. Our independent supporter liaison officer, alongside others, met with the club soon after to discuss this and the club immediately reduced all beer to £3. We understand why some people might think these are relatively trivial matters in the grand scheme of things but these are the sort of issues that directly impact on the matchday experience of thousands of fans and if we want fans in the stadium earlier and generating a better atmosphere then these are the sort of changes we need to keep progressing.
And as for tomorrow, let’s hope we can repeat the 6-2 of last season. But this time with 75,000 of us cheering and celebrating each goal. Now that would be a good way to start things off…