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 Red11 REDitorial

Published: 16 OCT 2005

by Paul Hinson

My feeling is that the great beast of money has bitten Manchester United on the bum. The club with the biggest attendances, the most gate-money, the most glamour, chose to chase the global audience, the megabucks merchandising and sponsorship, to make themselves bigger, create more income, spend it on better and more expensive players, make Old Trafford better than anywhere else in the UK, more seats, more boxes, more everything.

When the stock market flotation came in 1991, the factor was greed. Short-term financial gain coincided with unparalleled wads of silverware, but it opened the door of ownership wide open. It took 14 years before the unthinkable happened, but the money-driven Premiership world has in those years indeed misplaced its soul. The genius of Cantona, Giggs, Beckham,
distracted us all whilst the rot set in behind the scenes. The trophy cabinets bulged, but now grim reality has taken over.

The working class fan cheering the working class idol in the Red shirt has gone, replaced by a middle-class 'customer' 'observing' a multi-millionaire player. The customer does not care for the history of the game, has nothing in common with his idols, and is fleeced unmercifully for his trouble with the spiral of increasing prices.

Years ago the game was the power, attracting young and old like the Pied Piper. Now ticket prices exclude the young and the low-waged. The game was the power. The Pools, Press and TV hung onto its coat-tails, knowing that their business depended on it. Now the TV companies control the game and dictate the kick-off times, to hell with the match going public. The Press pick off the scabs of the professional game, exposing the greed and corruption, the shame, the excesses, hyping it all up and in turn hammering more nails into the football coffin.

The national sides take all your players away, weekends are left without fixtures, even meaningless international friendlies come before bread and butter league fixtures.

Players haggle for shorter contracts and more salary, with little in the way of loyalty to a club. The disease of agents and fixers use the media to negotiate and scheme. Defensive tactics, lack of atmosphere. Will the slump in attendances be seen in the near future? Will Old Trafford fill 75,000 seats in future years?

The long-time fan sees all this and no wonder he is disillusioned. Now Manchester United cannot even bask in the comfort of wealth. Another club can outbid and outmanoeuvre, snapping up the world's best with unlimited pots of money. United's current owners borrow enormous amounts to buy the club and place its future in doubt. But the Glazers are just exploiting the crass mistake made by Martin Edwards and his board in 1991. They should be seen as the men who played Russian roulette with the greatest club in the world. But what do they care now? They all made their fortunes in selling shares, Edwards alone made over £80 million through grubby dealing with the family silverware.

A few miles down the road, a team in Red shirts play in front of an excited crowd generating an atmosphere that is now alien to Old Trafford. Attacking football is the order of the day, just like it used to be. The MUFC songbook is fully aired, fun is had by all, young kids turn up on the day with their parents and sit where they like. No SKY TV, Mickey-mouse kick off times,
spiteful journalists, overpriced tickets, jesters hats, moans and groans, ownership crises, petty stewards. I went along with some friends, not all of them diehard Reds. One is a Wigan fan even! They all enjoyed their visit, and one Red said that she had never had as much fun at the so-called 'Theatre of Dreams'.

This is FC United. It may not be the future. It may not grow to be the new Manchester United in years to come. It may be 10 divisions below the Premiership. There may be no £27 million Wayne Rooneys here.

But it is fun. I am still a Season Ticket holder at Old Trafford. I have been going there since 1968. My relationship with the Reds is like a marriage, whereas the FCUM business in Bury is like a mistress. Be warned, Malcolm Glazer. A lot of football marriages in this country might not be lasting a lifetime...

Copyright © 2005 Red11. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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