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Published: 15 June 2000

BYE BYE EDWARDS - OLD TUNE, NEW WORDS
by Our Salford Lass

United are one of the cheapest grounds and we are seeing the best football not only in the Premiership, but I believe, in the world. But that is all irrelevant to the ordinary match-going supporter. It is how much the prices have increased that matters, because when your income is rising by around 2% per year (which I believe is around the average in the UK), and you come from an area which is classified as being "depressed" ie high levels of unemployment, paying low wages etc, then what matters is whether you can afford your season ticket, or your match ticket this season, as compared to last. To the thousands of fans in Salford, Stretford, Old Trafford, Hulme it is irrelevant what someone at Arsenal is paying.

Here are the figures - 4 seasons ago, my season ticket in East Lower was 228, this coming season it is 323. That is an increase of 42% over the 4 years. In the same period, my income has increased by 8%. Ticket prices all over the ground have increased by the same amount. This is at a time when United have been acknowledged as being the richest football club in the world, and the big shareholders have taken out millions in dividends. Oh yes, and don't forget the ever-increasing number of Euro and cup games - that doubles the annual amount on match tickets alone.

Call me naive if you like, but if the board in general really cared about the ordinary supporters, they could have taken a little less out of the club and held down prices, especially in the seats where traditionally those worse off financially sit. They could have also ensured that children and those over 65 got half price admission all over the ground (they don't - children's LMTB's in the new "singing section", for example, are full price) and that young people between the ages of 16 and 18 (most of whom are still in education) got half-price admission also. The truth is, that the board in general, and Edwards in particular, don't care about ordinary supporters - they care only about the executive supporters, the club class supporters and the shareholders (which is why shareholders in far away places receive personal calls in answer to their queries, whilst supporters in Manchester don't even get an acknowledgment of their letter). If I come across as being bitter - well yes, I am. Martin Edwards makes millions whilst I struggle harder each season just to keep on going. I don't know how much longer I can do it, which is precisely why I "write books to sell", if I can't fund my football in some way, then I won't be there next season, it's as serious as that.

Edwards and the board have contributed to the building of our wonderful stadium, our team, our coaching facilities and the rest of it, but then so have the fans. As we are told every time they raise the ticket prices, it is the fans who pay for the building of the new stands, the new players, the wages for existing players. I am prepared to acknowledge Edwards' and others' contributions but then why can't he also acknowledge the contribution of the millions of United fans who have contributed over the years? Edwards inherited his father's shares and he has watched them rise in value ever since. The ordinary fans have contributed their own money - the money they have earned by working. One day, I'll get round to working out just how much money I have paid into Manchester United over the years - it will come to many thousands of pounds.

We are still a great footballing club on the pitch, of course we are - it's my belief in Fergie and the players that keeps me going. Off the pitch, Manchester United is a moneymaking machine that has one purpose - to make even more money. It has little, if anything to do with football. Martin Edwards talks only about the brand, and markets and customers. I think it's hard for those of you who don't go to Old Trafford on a regular basis to understand just how much things have changed. The success on the pitch hides a lot of cracks which only become apparent when you are coming up against this monolith week after week after week. For those of us who can remember when Old Trafford was a haven for the working class people of Manchester and Salford and beyond, it is heartbreaking to see what the PLC has done to our club, to be in Old Trafford and look around and see only the well-off and the middle classes. As Chief Executive, Martin Edwards has to bear the responsibility for that.

www.red11.org
Salford Lass


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