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United v Liverpool in Fans’ Quest for the Holy Grail

MUST, the Manchester United Supporters Trust, is challenging Liverpool’s fans to a race to become the first to attain the Holy Grail of a supporter-owned football club.

‘Share Liverpool FC’ was today launched with the aim of raising £500m to buy-out American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett by persuading 100,000 fans to each pay £5,000.

MUST, with 32,000 members, is the largest Supporters Trust in the country and began campaigning for supporter ownership during the failed BSkyB bid in 1998-99.

Since the bitterly-opposed hostile takeover of United by the Glazers in 2005, which brought with it vast levels of debt and hugely inflated ticket price rises, fans at all clubs are waking up to the fact that something needs to be done now or we risk losing our national game forever.

MUST chief executive Duncan Drasdo said: “This is bound to spark fierce competition between the two sets of rival fans.

“We’ve been working on our own plans, which we’ll reveal later in the season. But, whilst we believe that supporter-led bids for any of the big clubs are likely to require a mixture of investment bank finance and money raised directly from fans, we’ll be watching this latest scheme with great interest.

“There is a huge financial dividend that flows from supporter-ownership, and we’d hate to see Liverpool being able to take advantage of it before we can at United.”

Supporters everywhere should be greatly encouraged that, in an interview with the Observer last Sunday, the newly appointed Culture & Sport Secretary, Andy Burnham MP said that: “The Barcelona model, to me, is how a football club should be run. They are one of the most pre-eminent names in world football, yet the club is owned by its supporters on a one-member, one-vote basis and they control it. That strengthens it because it’s never subject to the whim of one person; it’s a collective endeavour. English football should see that as a big strength. I’d love to see if we could grow the Barcelona model here.”

Drasdo continued: “Supporter-ownership has a great many advantages, especially when compared to the rash of exploitative, profit-draining, debt-laden and out-of-touch regimes that we’ve seen pervading football in recent times.

“First and foremost, a supporter-owned club is able to re-invest all profits back into the football club, rather than seeing it being siphoned off by private owners – whether to pay interest on loans, finance their other businesses, or simply buy bigger yachts. Currently, at United, that represents a £70m windfall that could be spent on players.

“Secondly, the increased affinity between ‘customer’ (supporter) and ‘provider’ (club) makes the business more attractive to sponsors, as has been demonstrated in Germany, where supporter-ownership is the norm.

“With supporters’ priorities placed at the heart of everything a club does, the experience for the loyal match-going fan in particular would be greatly enhanced, leading to an improved atmosphere inside grounds – benefiting fans and players alike.

“The bottom line is simple: supporters are currently paying for these takeovers anyway, through increased ticket prices and the like, but will end up with nothing to show for it. So it makes far more sense for us to own the clubs ourselves.”

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