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Thu 15th Apr 2010 | Football Governance


On the day that the leaders of the three main political parties are to meet in Manchester to go head-to-head in the first ever live televised debate in a UK General Election, the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) will be kicking off its own election campaign outside the Granada Studios later today. (United fans will gather on Quay Street from 5.30pm with banners, etc)

MUST’s 150,000 online membership includes more than 100,000 UK residents of voting age, for whom the Trust holds postcode and constituency details on its digital database.

According to Labour’s election co-ordinator, Douglas Alexander MP, “the outcome of the 2005 election was determined by just 12,000 voters across 30 marginal seats.” The 2010 election promises to be a much more closely fought affair.

Recent research carried out for Co-operativesUK by pollsters YouGov found that there are 3.8 million Manchester United fans of voting age in the UK.

MUST has already signed up Blue State Digital, the online grassroots campaigning outfit instrumental in bringing Barack Obama all the way to the White House.

Today it also unveiled its team of top political, public affairs and public relations consultants, which include individuals from leading firms Luther Pendragon and Edelman, who will help drive MUST’s agenda all the way up to the election and beyond, ensuring that they can go punch for punch with football vested interests when it comes to lobbying those in power.

Now, having secured manifesto commitments from both Labour and the Conservatives on the issue of supporter ownership, MUST is taking its campaign to the doorsteps of Britain with a nationwide campaign aimed particularly at the 100 key battleground marginals and all the constituencies across the North West.

MUST chief executive Duncan Drasdo said: “In many cases MUST already has more members in a constituency than the majorities recorded at the last election, but this isn’t just about MUST members, it’s about all United supporters – and there are millions of us spread throughout the land.

“Fans at other clubs with large followings such as Liverpool, Newcastle and Arsenal are also trying to buy their clubs and are likely to be keenly motivated by the same issues as us.

“People may not necessarily switch their vote on the issue of a fairer future for football, but a great many people could be encouraged to turn up to the polls if they were voting for the love of their football club, and in this election for the first time in a very long time every vote is going to count.

“We’re greatly encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far with the inclusion of the issue of supporter ownership in the manifestos, but we’re looking to get further commitments from all the parties on how far they’re actually willing to go in cleaning up football, making it financially secure and transparent, tackling dangerous levels of debt, and giving the fans the right to own a stake in their clubs.

“We’ll be targeting all the candidates in all the constituencies, as we want to be able to hold individual MPs to account after the election, not just the party leaderships.

“We want cross-party support, and in the event of a hung parliament or minority government, or even one with a slender majority, the politicians are going to have to work together, so every potential MP we get signed up to our football reform agenda the more likely supporter power can be brought to bear after the election in ensuring that those essential reforms are enacted in the first months of a new parliament.

MUST will also be commissioning polling during the campaign, asking such things as: “Do you think football clubs should be able to be taken over with borrowed money and then those borrowings be shifted onto the football club itself for the supporters to pay back through increased ticket prices?”

In the coming days, MUST will also be making public its own blueprint for the future governance of football, which has been worked on by top lawyers and academics and in conjunction with the national trust body Supporters Direct, detailing proposals for an effective system of independent regulation to ensure that essential reforms cannot be blocked by the vested interests that have for more than a decade frustrated any and all attempts to significantly change the game for the better and protect it from carpet-baggers and financial mismanagement.

MUST is a non-party political organisation. MUST’s elected committee includes members of all three major political parties.

MUST Patrons include Lords and MPs, including Labour’s PLP chair and Manchester Central’s MP Tony Lloyd, who hosted a Westminster Hall Debate earlier this year calling for better regulation of football, Oldham’s Labour MP Phil Woolas, Lib Dems Withington member John Leech MP and Tory MPs David Ruffley (Bury St Edmonds) and Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley).

MUST has recently held meetings in Downing Street with senior government advisors and with leading Conservatives, as well as with members of a number of relevant Select Committees and All Party Groups.


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