General

14/08/2019

MUST statement on relationship with Club & ownership

It is well known that MUST opposed the Glazer takeover prior to 2005 because of the damage we feared it would do to the club, as well as the loss of opportunity for fans to own a stake in their club and form the optimum ownership model. The decline in performance that we’ve seen since Sir Alex retired is also sadly something we predicted as the damage caused by the relative austerity years from 2005 -2012 was brutally exposed after he stood down.

We maintained our opposition to the ownership through protest throughout that period but with declining active support from fans there was then a sea change in 2012. Firstly the flotation on the New York Stock Exchange provided ready access to cash for the owners and thus removed the financial pressure which the campaign sought to use as leverage. Shortly after that - and undoubtedly in response to the prolonged protest campaign - dialogue with MUST was reopened by the club, at board level, and this signalled the logical end to active protest as our primary tactic.

 
It is important for all of us to learn the lessons from 2005 and 2010, including those who were not actively involved back then. We produced a report “Lessons from the Green & Gold” in 2011 which concluded that:

1. Achieving ownership change is a huge challenge and if there is one single factor which will guarantee we will fail it is a divided fanbase. Fans must remain respectful of others' views, decisions and tactics. United we stand - divided we fall could never be more apt.

2. Without a credible alternative ownership model on the table any protest campaign which attempts to ramp up pressure to change the ownership will not be sustainable

3. So the primary role for MUST has to be exploring alternative options whether that be a new “Red Knight” consortium or a slow, progressive increase in fan shareholding 
 

It is worth noting that historically the reason we deployed protest was precisely because there was no other mechanism available to communicate discontent. Clearly with a direct dialogue it would be nonsensical to continue to actively protest when the very same message can be delivered directly to the board. That does not mean we don’t believe fans should protest - we defend the right for all fans to continue to express their views through lawful means. To that end we have publicised recent grassroots fan protests so that our members and other United supporters can make their own choices. These include the Open Letter to the Glazers and other social media campaigns as well as the ill-fated attempted protest outside Old Trafford.

Of course we have not changed in our desire to see a change in ownership because we retain our primary objective to see the optimum ownership model for our club which must include a significant fan stake along with other stakeholders who share our vision for our football club.

We are simply using a different tactic to influence the board and owners which was not available to us previously. So while protest now is not the tactic we feel is most effective for MUST as an organisation to adopt that is no criticism of others who choose to use it. 

So we believe that right now MUST's most effective role is to use that dialogue, backed by the continued publicity of supporter disharmony, to challenge our directors and owners robustly on the need for change, on the pitch and off it.

The other benefit of dialogue is shorter term with direct influence on current club policy. We’ve had some significant successes for match-going fans but also voice our concerns on more strategic issues. when Jose Mourinho was sacked in December we called for major changes in the structure of the club  and significant investment in the playing squad (you can read our December statement here). Our ongoing dialogue with the Club will be informed by the collective view of United supporters that we are now seeking through a new United Voice 2019 survey (linked below).

Our goals and actions however are not confined to dialogue.  We need to be prepared for the inevitable time when our owners do decide to sell and to ensure that alternative ownership models might attract the right potential investors. We will continue to engage with football regulators, politicians, influencers and potential investors to that end. 

For the foreseeable future however our focus is on ensuring that the current owners, through their appointed directors, deliver what we, and many others, called for in December, and in doing so restore our football team to its rightful position competing and winning at the very top of domestic and European competition. At the same time all supporters will want to get behind our manager and our team that, while still a work in progress, is clearly now being set up to play and compete in the ‘United way’.

Please take our 
new United Voice 2019 survey here
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