BSkyB Refused purchase of ManUtd

  Deputy Chief Exe on BSKYB 11/4/99 Download this mp3 file

Trade Secretary Stephen Byers said the proposed tie-up would have adversely affected
competition between broadcasters and also damaged the quality of British soccer. BSkyB
already has live TV rights to premier league matches.

United fans delighted but divided after BSkyB bid blocked
       By Jeremy Butler

MANCHESTER, England, April 9 - In a working men's club where the bar is called "The Vault of Dreams", fans were divided over the future of Manchester United following the government's decision to block BSKyB's takeover of the club.

Those who had campaigned for seven months against the bid celebrated without restraint.

"I'm so happy it's not gone through because it would have ruined our club. Just look where we are now, we are the top club in Britain and arguably Europe -- what we do we need his money for?" said Andy Spencer.

But others were not so sure the decision to turn down the one billion dollar bid from Rupert Murdoch's pay tv giant was in the club's best interests.

"I must admit I would have quite liked to see him come in and give us some more money. Maybe if they'd let Sky buy the club they could afford to get players like Zinedine Zidane," said Roy Mell.

The board of the Old Trafford club said it was disappointed by the decision. United lead the premier league and are in the semifinals of the European Cup and the English F.A Cup.

"The board is confident that Manchester United will maintain its record of success and secure its objectives of achieving consistently outstanding playing and business performance for the benefit of supporters, employees and shareholders."

But the overall mood in the city was one of joy that the Theatre of Dreams would not be taken over by a company whose first obligation was to its shareholders and television, rather than to soccer and the club's fans.

"To coin a footballing phrase we are over the moon. We were told stopping this deal going through was the impossible dream," said Lee Hodgkiss of the Manchester United Supporters' Association.

"Everyone knew this was a bad deal for football. It was a great deal for (BSkyB owner Rupert) Murdoch but not for football and that was why it was so important to stop him doing this."

Steve Briscoe of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association was in no doubt that an important victory had been achieved, and not just against BSkyB.

"To be honest, nobody in football wanted this deal. The board care about one thing: money. The club is about passion, European soccer nights.

"If Martin Edwards (Manchester United's chairman) wants to bail out and sell his shares, fine. He should sell his shares to the fans who love this club."

The United chairman, who has run the club for nearly two decades, has long been the target of criticism from some Old Trafford fans.

Vic Wakeling, the head of sports at BSkyB, offered a more pragmatic view of what the blocking of the deal could mean.

"This places English clubs, competing in Europe, competing for the best players, at a disadvantage because media companies do invest in other European clubs and are being allowed to continue to do so."

Vic Wakeling, a lifelong fan of Newcastle United who are themselves subject of a takeover bid by NTL, said it was unlikely now that any media company would own an English soccer club.

The government said on Friday it would refer the NTL bid for Newcastle to the same monopolies board which raised serious concerns about the United/BSkyB link-up.

No need for tears for mega-rich United and its fans
       By Mike Collett

LONDON, April 9 - While it may be heart-warming for Manchester United fans to see off Rupert Murdoch's attempt to buy their beloved club, several million things should not be forgotten about United.

These are the tens of millions of pounds profit generated each season that enable United to remain England's biggest and richest football club.

While supporters can utter platitudes that soccer is still ultimately "owned" by the fans and that they should now take over running the club, United is not a struggling little concern living on faded glories from a sepia-tinted yesteryear.

United is the most vibrant, commercially-driven club in the world.

Unlike some English clubs desperate for a benefactor to save them from extinction, United will certainly get by without Murdoch's money.

A recent global business survey by Deloitte and Touche the accountancy and consulting firm, named United as the richest club in the world -- its annual revenue of 87.9 million pounds ($142 million) dwarfing that of Barcelona (58.9 million pounds) Real Madrid (55.7 million), and Juventus (53.2 million).

United has ruthlesssly exploited its romantic past -- both the highs and lows -- and brilliantly sold itself worldwide to fans thrilled by daring deeds at the Theatre of Dreams.

Success on the field has generated huge profits which have been invested in the game's best players, all but guaranteeing that the successful years will continue.

The income United generates from television -- and the huge potential revenue streams that the likes of Murdoch are so keen on exploiting -- were the key to his BSkyB takeover bid.

United's Superstore makes more selling club merchandise in one week than some struggling league clubs take in gate money all season.

So the fans can carry on dreaming dreams of Law, Best and Charlton, of Cantona, Beckham and Giggs, but underpinning the Old Trafford success has always been a harsh business reality.

It was Matt Busby -- with the support of chairman Martin Edwards' late father Louis -- who rebuilt United and Old Trafford after it was left a bombed-out ruin by the Luftwaffe.

United had some isolated successes in the first half-century of their existence, but only began to emerge as England's glamour club in the 1950s.

United won the league in 1952, 1956, and 1957 when they were also runners-up in the F.A. Cup.

This was the golden era of the Busby Babes - a highly talented and precocious young team seemingly destined for greatness, until eight of them were killed in the Munich air disaster in February 1958.

The tragedy occurred when the plane carrying the team back from a European Cup quarter-final in Belgrade crashed on take-off after a refuelling stop in Munich.

Busby wavered between life and death for three weeks before pulling through. The club's star player Duncan Edwards, just 21, battled for three weeks but died.

In those weeks of uncertainty thousands of people who had never had an allegiance for a club began following the fortunes of Manchester United and formed the foundation of a worldwide fan-base that has remained to this day.

Ask anyone in Africa, Asia or South America if they know any words in English and they may know just two -- Bobby Charlton.

It took Busby 10 years again to rebuild his shattered club. After winning the F.A. Cup in 1963 and the league in 1965 and 1967, United became the first English side to win the European Cup in 1968 when on a magical night at Wembley they beat Benfica 4-1.

Although United did not win the league again for another 26 years, there were regular cup successes in the 1970s and 1980s as managers came and went, unable to live up to the Edwards family's desire for success.

The start of Alex Ferguson's reign at Old Trafford in 1986 was not an immediate success, but since winning his first trophy -- the F.A. Cup in 1990 -- United have gone on to dominate the domestic game.

With 11 English league championship titles and nine F.A. Cup wins, only Liverpool match United for success.

Under the shrewd eye of Ferguson, United's dominance on the field has coincided with the explosion in football's popularity.

Money has poured into the game as television - particularly the Sky satellite channels owned by Murdoch - and sponsors realised the crowd-pulling potential of the game.

Old Trafford is packed with 55,000 supporters for every match and England's streets are full of boys and men wearing United's shirts.

Many fans object to the over-commercialisation of a sport they adore and battled against the takeover.

They are happy today. Even if they too will watch the next United match on Sky and are wearing replica shirts, the proceeds from which have helped boost United's profits a little bit more.

At least one famous list member can be seen here outside the Houses of Parliament!