Published: 17 June 2000
Martin Edwards and the business side of Manchester United [Not meat pies - honest]
I run my own business along with my partner. We concentrate on two major aspects: creative output and customer care. In this respect it should be deemed very similar to Manchester United, but it isn't. Creative output - YES - but that's down to Fergie. Customer care (as far as the ordinary supporter is concerned) - NO - but that's down to Martin Edwards.
Martin Edwards took over the club when his father died - he inherited the business. Louis Edwards took over the club by instigating some very dubious share buying deals and I would suggest that anyone who is remotely interested in the history of the Edwards dynasty should try and get their hands on a copy of Michael Crick's "Betrayal of a Legend", it will open your eyes and put you off pies.
I'm going to treat this as a footy match between Edwards and the anti-Edwards, and to be nice, let's give Martin Edwards a goal start. On the surface he did seem to stick by Fergie when all around were calling for his head. But, let's also remember that it was Bobby Charlton who visited Fergie in Aberdeen and encouraged him to venture south, so it could quite conceivably have been the same man who encouraged Edwards to hang on to him in 1990. But anyway, we'll allow Edwards to claim the tap in at the near post from a superb cross from Charlton. He takes an early lead at 1-0.
Some of the arguments have centred around the merchandising business, or the promotion of Manchester United as a brand. It wasn't Edwards who instigated this, it was Edward Freedman who came up from Tottenham. The merchandising empire, was ruthlessly built by Freedman, not Edwards. From as far back as I can remember the potential has always been there for United to become a global brand, but it was never capitalised on before Freedman. A coolly taken equaliser from the new transfer. 1-1.
What about the immense structure that is now Old Trafford then? When the Stretford End was demolished Edwards was advised to extend it upwards and add an extra tier, but what did he do? He built it so that the roof around the ground would be continuous. The story goes that it was his father's dream to see Old Trafford with a continuous cantilever roof and he wanted to fulfil that dream. A few short years down the line and we are now seeing the Stretford End developed again and only now is the second tier is being added. Think of how much money that previous decision cost the club. An own goal by Edwards. 1-2. The outward appearance of Old Trafford nearly resulted in another embarrassing own goal, but the ref disallowed it because he shops in Marks and Spencer - a lucky escape for Edwards. But his luck didn't last.
It could be said that Martin Edwards has never fully realised the potential of Manchester United. He has tried to sell the club 3 times (that we know of) and each time has grossly underestimated it's value, but each time he has still managed to end up considerably wealthier than before. The first two times he was just plain lucky not to have succeeded in his quest. The third time, when he tried to flog the club and anything left of it's independence, to that nice Mr Murdoch, it was only the concerted effort of countless members of IMUSA and SUAM who saved it from becoming a spoke on a grubby wheel rather than the wheel itself. Martin Edwards is now unbelievably rich (from our efforts). Three goals scored - the last of the three by someone wearing specs and orange cords. The anti Edwards lobby slip into a comfortable 1-5 lead.
Now to the last category - customer care. For the ordinary Joe Public supporter of Manchester United, there isn't any. For those who live far away there may be, but ask those in Singapore, for instance, who are suffering from a new regime run by a Scouser appointed by Manchester United. Lucky to get away with a final score of 1-6, but only because the ref had soiled his St Michael underwear and was forced to blow early - excuse the pun. The result - a rather damning away defeat for Martin Edwards.
I understand only too well that there are always two sides to every story, but I have looked at this from a purely business point of view which, as Chief Exec, is how Edwards should be judged. Martin Edwards has had many many chances to encourage better feeling towards him and meet with his customers, but unfortunately, he has always hidden himself away from those whom he sees as a threat (us ordinary supporters). He has seriously misjudged, because all anyone wants is for Manchester United to be successful.
And as far as people (presumably like me and Salford Lass) writing books and making money out of the club - if we make anything at all out of our venture I'll be very happy and not a little surprised. We do what we do because we want to and because some people tell us they actually enjoy it - that's enough for us. For Martin Edwards of course, it would not be anywhere near enough.
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