_UNITED VOICE SUPPORTER SURVEY 2019_
ABOUT THE SURVEY
At the start of the season, we launched a wide-ranging survey asking for views on how the club is being run as well as on match-going issues. It was open for a six-week period from mid-August until late September, with over 95% of responses recorded in the first three weeks. It was completed by almost 10,000 United supporters, comprising match-going and non-matchgoing fans of all ages. We want to thank all of those respondents for their considered and heartfelt views. This report covers the first part of the survey that sought views on the performance of the team, the running of the club, supporter share ownership and proposed changes to UEFA competitions.
Headline results, together with our initial response and actions, are included here. At the foot of this item there are links to presentations of the Main Findings and the Full Analysis
How the Football Club is being run
86% of respondents were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied with the team’s performance since 2013.
There is more qualified satisfaction with performance under OGS (although responses preceded the poor run of results in September).
91% were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied with the management of the club by the owners and their staff.
Over 70% were dissatisfied with investment in the squad (either net spend or quality) in that period. Satisfaction improved for the last transfer window.
Levels of dissatisfaction are noticeably higher for younger supporters (U21 and U40).
Looking ahead at the likelihood of positive actions and changes over the next 2-3 years:
72% have some level of confidence that there is a clear vision and strategy.
Less than 40% are confident that the required changes will be fully funded.
Less than 25% are confident that the football operation will be led by qualified football appointees with the authority to deliver.
Less than 20% are confident that there will also be any significant investment in the stadium and infrastructure over this period.
Over 5,000 respondents opted to explain their main concerns. The most common concerns were:
Mistreatment of the club by the owners (debt levels, failure to invest and taking money out).
The club being run primarily on commercial and business priorities rather than the football operation and fan-centric issues.
Responsibility for and handling of transfers & contract renewals.
Continued delays in appointing a Director of Football/Sporting Director.
Decline in stadium infrastructure - failure to commit to significant expansion and modernisation.
Other Key Issues
Strong support for MUST’s own strategy to engage in constructive dialogue with club directors to address the concerns and needs of supporters, including but not just match-going fans.
Very strong support for the creation of a collective supporter share stake in the club.
Strong opposition to early proposals from UEFA and the European Clubs Association (ECA) for the creation of a European Super League.
OUR CONCLUSIONS AND ACTIONS
This is the collective view of the usually silent majority of United supporters. The unprecedented response from across the fan base makes it a voice that needs to be heard.
In early September we shared the emerging results of our survey with the club, in particular supporters’ significant concerns regarding the management of transfers, restructuring of the football operation and commitment to ongoing major investment in the squad and the stadium. Since then we have seen a series of media and other briefings, including the recent detailed and challenging interview with the United We Stand fanzine.
Through those channels there has been a clearer articulation of the vision, the ‘culture reset’ and the changes in the structure of the football operations relating to transfers to help to deliver it, as well as some acknowledgement of past mistakes, and commitments to improve communication with supporters. Many supporters will not have seen these - we will press for mechanisms to share the key messages more widely.
Clearly many supporters will remain to be convinced but on balance we think the changes that have been put in place must be given some time to deliver. The owners and the club must then be held to account for the structural changes and appointments that have been made and will be judged by progress and results over the rest of this season and in particular by the outcome of the January transfer window. The manager has to be backed by both club and supporters to deliver with a strengthened squad.
However, the underlying issue that concerns supporters most is the ownership structure of the club and the money that has been systematically removed both directly (through fees and dividends) and indirectly (through the earlier imposition and subsequent servicing of debt). Without those burdens, the long and painful decline of the team and our club would never have happened. Critically for the future, we have yet to see formal assurances on necessary funding to deliver the vision for either the playing squad or the stadium.
With the mandate that we have from supporters, we want to expand our dialogue with senior executives to press the case for a renewed vision and commitment from the owners to fully invest the huge revenues that the club continues to deliver and maintain a world-class playing squad whilst also investing in major stadium redevelopment.
We will also make the case to the club and the owners to pursue the introduction of a collective supporter share ownership scheme, for which there is clearly substantial support. This can initially be a conduit for genuine communication and engagement with supporters and may subsequently act as a catalyst for a different longer-term ownership model. We will explore all opportunities for longer-term change with renewed commitment. Given recent signals by some of the owners that they may sell at least part of their stake, it is only right that supporters can benefit.
On UEFA competition reform, where UEFA has belatedly committed to a full consultation to inform decisions by the autumn of 2020. We will continue to make the case for supporter led principles with our club, the Premier League, the European Leagues and UEFA, led by our elected national Football Supporters Association (FSA) representative.
We will now complete our analysis of the second half of the survey relating to match-going issues. This will include important issues regarding standing, atmosphere, stadium facilities and away match tickets. We will report on this in the next few weeks and start to engage with appropriate senior club officials to progress them.