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The Dennis Viollet Fund

www.red11.org DAILY NEWS
Date: Sun Apr 11 03:15:53 GMT+00:00 1999
Mail: barry@www.red11.org

This Issue:
1. Ferguson told to drop interest in Zidane 
2. Cooke's recipe to bridge the Manchester divide 
4. Man Utd takeover bid blocked
6. Telegraph - Michael Crick
8. Referee's decision on Man Utd bid was offside


Daily RED Trivia  Sun 11th April 1999:

 Dennis Viollet made his United debut against Newcastle United. A gifted
 striker with pace and vision, Viollet won League title medals in 1956 and 1957,
 and played in the 1958 FA Cup Final. In 1958-59 he scored League 32 goals in
 36 games, still a United record. A survivor of the Munich disaster, he made 
 291 appearances, scoring 159 goals. 2 England caps. Viollet joined Stoke City
 in January 1962 and won a Division 2 Championship medal in 1963.  

 United win their FA Cup Semi-Final replay 2-1 after extra time against
 Oldham Athletic at Maine Road watched by 35,005. Brian McClair and Mark
 Robins scored the goals that took United to Wembley. Team was: Leighton,
 Ince, Martin (Robins), Bruce, Phelan, Pallister, Robson, Webb (Gibson),
 McClair, Hughes, Wallace.

09-APR-1999 [16:28] United Respond To Sky News
Friday, April 09, 1999 16:28

Manchester United have issued this statement following the DTI's blocking
of the BSkyB takeover deal. "The Board of Manchester United note today's
announcement of the decision by the Secretary of State for Trade and
Industry not to permit the proposed merger between Manchester United and
BSkyB. Although disappointed by the decision, the Board is confident that
the club will maintain its record of success and secure its objective of
achieving consistantly outstanding playing and business performance for the
benefit of its supporters, employees and shareholders." 
Real Audio Sunday
9-APR-1999 [14:52] Don't Miss This
Friday, April 09, 1999 14:52
Haven't got a ticket for Sunday's match? Don't despair, just tune into
ManUtd.Com and let us bring you every kick of the match live and direct to
your PC. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, our Century Radio
commentary team will transport you to Villa Park, and you'll be able to
hear every crunching tackle, every great save, and, hopefully, lots of
United goals. Tune in, and help us cheer the Reds to victory!

Sun. 11 April
Kickoff 12.30 BST / 11.30 GMT / 6.30am CT

Manchester United v Arse
Real Audio url's:
http://www.manutd.com/matches/ram/arsenalpromo_14.ram   14400 kb/s
http://www.manutd.com/matches/ram/arsenalpromo_28.ram   28800

You can listen NOW!
 Archive of Sat. 03 April ManUtd v Wimbledon


Barry Daily Comment:

BIG game day again, this tike our rivals Arse in
FACUP Semi. We now have to beat them after losing 3 times in a row!
Results vs Manchester United in the 90's
 Arsenal  P20  W8 D5 L7

Date(YMD) Comp Round WLD H/A Utd Opp Venue   Goal Scorers    Attendance
98 09 20   LgPL    L   A   0   3   Highbury                       38142
98 08 09   CS      L   N   0   3   Wembley                        67057
98 03 14   LgPL    L   H   0   1   Old Trafford                   55174
97 11 09   LgPL    L   A   2   3   Highbury   Sheringham2         38203
97 02 19   LgPL    W   A   2   1   Highbury   Cole1 Solskjaer1    38172
96 11 16   LgPL    W   H   1   0   Old Trafford   WinterburnOG1   55210
96 03 20   LgPL    W   H   1   0   Old Trafford   Cantona1        50028
95 11 04   LgPL    L   A   0   1   Highbury                       38317
95 03 22   LgPL    W   H   3   0   OT Hughes SharpeL Kanchels     43623
94 11 26   LgPL    D   A   0   0   Highbury                       38301
94 03 22   LgPL    D   A   2   2   Highbury   SharpeL2            36203
93 09 19   LgPL    W   H   1   0   Old Trafford   Cantona1        44009
93 08 07   CS      W   N   1   1   Wembley   Hughes1              60000
93 03 24   LgPL    D   H   0   0   Old Trafford                   37301
92 11 28   LgPL    W   A   1   0   Highbury   Hughes1             29739
92 02 01   LgDiv1  D   A   1   1   Highbury   McClair1            41703
91 10 19   LgDiv1  D   H   1   1   Old Trafford   Bruce1          46594
91 05 06   LgDiv1  L   A   1   3   Highbury   Bruce1(Pen)         40229
90 11 28   LCup4   W   A   6   2   Blackmo Sharpe3 Hugh1 Wallace1 40884
90 10 20   LgDiv1  L   H   0   1   Old Trafford                   47232


Remember takeover news/pics at http://www.red11.org/mufc/bskyb.htm
Previous News:
 Brian Kidd Press conference, pic, real audio
Peter Schmeichel's last Season at United!

Next games: 
ALL Result/Fixture Index:3

Next Games:
Today! FAC Semi Arsenal at Villa Park  12.30 UK Live Sky Sports Uk
17 Sheff Wed (H) 15.00 PL
21 European Cup Semi Juventus (A) 19.45 CL
25 Leeds (A)  11.30 {am} UK PL Live Sky Sports UK 

UNITED Stats v All teams:


         Aston Villa   3-0   Southampton           32,203
        Derby County   1-0   Nottingham Forest     32,217
      Leicester City   0-0   West Ham United       20,402
       Middlesbrough   2-0   Charlton Athletic     34,529


Pos Team                  P   W   D   L   F   A   GD  Pts
 1  Manchester United    31  18  10   3  69  32   37   64
 2  Arsenal              32  17  12   3  43  13   30   63
 3  Chelsea              30  16  11   3  45  23   22   59
 4  Leeds United         31  16   9   6  52  28   24   57
 5  Aston Villa          33  13  10  10  44  39    5   49
 6  West Ham United      33  13   9  11  34  40   -6   48
 7  Derby County         32  12  11   9  36  36    0   47
 8  Middlesbrough        32  11  13   8  44  41    3   46
 9  Liverpool            30  12   7  11  57  41   16   43
10  Newcastle United     32  11   9  12  43  45   -2   42
11  Wimbledon            32  10  11  11  36  48  -12   41
12  Tottenham Hotspur    31   9  13   9  35  37   -2   40
13  Leicester City       31   9  12  10  32  39   -7   39
14  Sheffield Wednesday  32  11   5  16  38  36    2   38
15  Coventry City        32  10   7  15  34  43   -9   37
16  Charlton Athletic    32   7  10  15  34  43   -9   31
17  Blackburn Rovers     32   7  10  15  32  43  -11   31
18  Everton              32   7  10  15  26  40  -14   31
19  Southampton          33   8   6  19  28  60  -32   30
20  Nottingham Forest    33   4   9  20  30  65  -35   21


Date        Opposition                        Score   Pos.   Attend.
15/08/98    Leicester City           Home     D  2-2    11    55,052
22/08/98    West Ham United          Away     D  0-0    11    26,039
09/09/98    Charlton Athletic        Home     W  4-1     9    55,147
12/09/98    Coventry City            Home     W  2-0     5    55,193
20/09/98    Arsenal                  Away     L  0-3    10    38,142
24/09/98    Liverpool                Home     W  2-0     3    55,181
03/10/98    Southampton              Away     W  3-0     2    15,251
17/10/98    Wimbledon                Home     W  5-1     2    55,265
24/10/98    Derby County             Away     D  1-1     2    30,867
31/10/98    Everton                  Away     W  4-1     2    40,079
08/11/98    Newcastle United         Home     D  0-0     3    55,174
14/11/98    Blackburn Rovers         Home     W  3-2     2    55,198
21/11/98    Sheffield Wednesday      Away     L  1-3     2    39,475
29/11/98    Leeds United             Home     W  3-2     2    55,172
05/12/98    Aston Villa              Away     D  1-1     2    39,241
12/12/98    Tottenham Hotspur        Away     D  2-2     1    36,079
16/12/98    Chelsea                  Home     D  1-1     2    55,159
19/12/98    Middlesbrough            Home     L  2-3     3    55,152
26/12/98    Nottingham Forest        Home     W  3-0     3    55,216
29/12/98    Chelsea                  Away     D  0-0     3    34,741
10/01/99    West Ham United          Home     W  4-1     3    55,180
16/01/99    Leicester City           Away     W  6-2     2    22,091
31/01/99    Charlton Athletic        Away     W  1-0     1    20,043
03/02/99    Derby County             Home     W  1-0     1    55,174
06/02/99    Nottingham Forest        Away     W  8-1     1    30,025
17/02/99    Arsenal                  Home     D  1-1     1    55,171
20/02/99    Coventry City            Away     W  1-0     1    22,596
27/02/99    Southampton              Home     W  2-1     1    55,316
13/03/99    Newcastle United         Away     W  2-1     1    36,500
21/03/99    Everton                  Home     W  3-1     1    55,182
03/04/99    Wimbledon                Away     D  1-1     1    26,121


       P   Won       Drawn     Lost      For        Against    Points
Home   16  11 (69%)  4 (25%)   1 (6%)    38 (2.4)   16 (1.0)   37 (2.3)
Away   14  7 (50%)   5 (36%)   2 (14%)   30 (2.1)   15 (1.1)   26 (1.9)

Total  30  18 (60%)  9 (30%)   3 (10%)   68 (2.3)   31 (1.0)   63 (2.1)

                                         Averages per game in (brackets)


HIGHEST HOME ATTENDANCE: 27/02/99 - Southampton (55,316)
LOWEST HOME ATTENDANCE:  15/08/98 - Leicester City (55,052)
BEST WIN:                06/02/99 - Nottingham Forest (8-1)
HEAVIEST DEFEAT:         20/09/98 - Arsenal (0-3)
BEST HOME WIN:           17/10/98 - Wimbledon (5-1)
HEAVIEST HOME DEFEAT:    19/12/98 - Middlesbrough (2-3)
BEST AWAY WIN:           06/02/99 - Nottingham Forest (8-1)
HEAVIEST AWAY DEFEAT:    20/09/98 - Arsenal (0-3)

Champions League:
Group D         P  W  D  L  F  A   Pts
Bayern Munich   6  3  2  1  9  6  11   
Man United      6  2  4  0 20 11  10
Barcelona       6  2  2  2 11  9   8    
Brondby         6  1  0  5  4 18   3   

Dec  9 Brøndby         0-2  Barcelona
Dec  9 Man Utd         1-1  Bayern Munich


 Manchester Utd  2 v 0  Inter Milan
 Real Madrid     1 v 1  Dynamo Kiev
 Juventus        2 v 1  Olympiakos
 Bayern Munich   2 v 0  Kaiserslautern

**DYNAMO KIEV      2 v 0  REAL MADRID         (Agg:3-1)
OLYMPIAKOS         1 v 1  **JUVENTUS          (Agg:2-3)

Semi Final 2nd legs to be played  21st April
Manchester United v Juventus  [1-1]
Bayern Munchen v Dynamo Kiev  [3-3]


Click on pic for more!

Subject: Ferguson told to drop interest in Zidane By Jon Brodkin and Michael Walker Saturday April 10, 1999 Juventus responded swiftly and predictably to talk of Manchester United prising Zinedine Zidane to Old Trafford by insisting yesterday that the Frenchman was not for sale at any price. United officials were understood to have made preliminary enquiries about signing the world player of the year before he inspired Juventus to a 1-1 draw in the Champions League semi-final at Old Trafford on Wednesday night. But Juventus's director general Luciano Moggi said: 'We haven't discussed anything about Zidane because he is one of the players on whom we are building the future. He is one of our key players for next season.' That, though, is doubted by many. The Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport yesterday cited club sources in a story that the 26-year-old will leave Juventus for Old Trafford or a Spanish club at the end of the season. Zidane, it said, is not considered essential to the tactics of Carlo Ancelotti, who replaced Marcello Lippi as coach earlier this year. The player is certainly under pressure from his wife to leave Turin, although her preference for living in a coastal city may work in Barcelona's favour. Zidane, who joined Juventus from Bordeaux in 1996, would cost around £18 million. Peter Reid's determination to strengthen his Sunderland squad before returning to the Premiership included a £2 million bid for Sheffield United's midfielder Curtis Woodhouse on transfer deadline day, it emerged yesterday. United rejected the offer despite Sunderland being prepared to let Woodhouse stay at Bramall Lane until the end of this season and pay his wages while he remained there. Reid is expected to make an improved offer for the 18-year-old in the summer, but will face fierce competition. Middlesbrough's manager Bryan Robson has criticised the teams who have made a late attempt to play in the InterToto Cup. Robson declared Boro's interest in the tournament at the start of the season, along with several other Premiership clubs, with a view to reaching the Uefa Cup via the back door. But competition for the single English berth included Aston Villa and West Ham by yesterday's deadline. 'Because teams who thought they were going to go for the Champions League are not achieving that, now they turn round and say they want to go in the InterToto,' Robson said. 'I feel that's unfair.' Brighton have sacked their manager Jeff Wood after only nine weeks. The Third Division club have lost nine of their past 10 games under the former Charlton goalkeeper. Martin Hinshelwood takes temporary charge.
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Subject: Cooke's recipe to bridge the Manchester divide Daniel Taylor meets the Old Trafford exile who is spurring on United's poor relations to new heights Saturday April 10, 1999 As Zinedine Zidane and friends indulged in a spot of La Dolce Vita at the expense of Manchester United on Wednesday, Terry Cooke could have been forgiven for regretting his neighbourly instincts. He was present at Old Trafford that night - but, for this product of the United conveyor belt of young talent, the forthcoming work agenda has a distinctly less glamorous tone. Most pressing of all, instead of this Champions League lark, is the thud and blunder of today's Second Division encounter between Manchester City and Lincoln City at Maine Road. Even United's pampered stars have to slum it sometimes, and Cooke has been a revelation since swapping the Theatre of Dreams for an honorary place on Moss Side as a loan signing for City. He has scored five goals, two of them free-kicks straight out of the David Beckham manual, since joining the select band who have turned out for both Manchester clubs. Such form has played no small part in the city's poor relations enjoying one of their most productive spells of an era in which the two rivals have rarely mingled in more contrasting circles. Yet, if Cooke harbours dark thoughts of 'that could have been me' after watching his old pals take on the Old Lady of Turin, he conceals it well. 'I know I could have been in the squad because Alex Ferguson has wanted me in the past for European games,' he says. 'But there is no point thinking: "They're playing Juventus while I'm in the Second Division". That hasn't entered my mind once. 'I want United to win everything, and I want City to get promotion. It is a bit strange but the fans of both clubs seem to understand. I was apprehensive at first as I didn't know how the City fans would react, but I've given 100 per cent in every match and, as long as I do that, they can't grumble.' A slip of a lad, the 22-year-old Cooke has suffered in the past from being a right-sided midfielder at a club that has a coatpeg marked Beckham. His early promise was halted by a cruciate ligament injury which almost brought his career to a premature end. Now, with his injury problems firmly behind him, Cooke is proving, like Denis Law and Brian Kidd before him, that it is possible to prosper on either side of the city. But while he may have won over the sceptics with his feet, it remains to be seen whether he will be around to help his new playmates wipe the egg stains from their faces after an inglorious few years for City. His loan spell expires next week and, while the manager Joe Royle would love to keep him, there remains the considerable stumbling block of Alex Ferguson's £1.5 million asking price. Cooke appears destined to resume duties with his Stretford employers. 'It's all about what United want and what City can offer,' Cooke says. 'It would be a shame to miss out on the play-offs, but hopefully the lads can go to Wembley and win promotion.' If they do, at least one United fan will be happy.<
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Subject: BERG RULED OUT OF SEMI Manchester United have been struck by an injury blow to Henning Berg ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Villa Park. Norwegian defender Berg has been ruled out with a knee ligament problem and Alex Ferguson is forced to break up the partnership with Japp Stam which has contributed to United's unbeaten run of 21 games. Ronny Johnsen will take over after replacing Berg for the second half of the Champions' League semi-final, first leg against Juventus on Wednesday. The injury also looks likely to rule Berg out of the return leg in Turin and Norway's Euro 2000 qualifier in Georgia on April 28. Manchester United (from): Schmeichel, G Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Brown, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer, Blomqvist, P Neville, Butt, Sheringham, Greening, Curtis, van der Gouw.
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Subject: Man Utd takeover bid blocked Friday, April 9, 1999 Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers today blocked BSkyB's bid to takeover Manchester United. The Department of Trade and Industry said Mr Byers was acting on the recommendation of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission which delivered its report on the proposed takeover last month. Mr Byers said: 'The MMC's findings are based mainly on competition grounds where they concluded that the merger would adversely affect competition between broadcasters. 'But they also examined wider public interest issues concluding that the merger would damage the quality of British football. I accept these findings. BSkyB launched its takeover bid for Manchester United in October offering to pay £623 million for the club. The deal was accepted by the club's board but was referred to the MMC amid opposition to the deal from some MPs and Manchester United fans. Andy Walsh, chairman of the Manchester United Independent Supporters Association, said today: 'It is a tremendous victory for supporters of Manchester United and for all football club fans.' He added: 'The news is fantastic and follows seven months of hard work. This is great for us and for anyone fighting for the independence of their club.'
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Subject: GUNNERS INJURY SCARE ARSENAL have been hit by two injury scares that could wreck their FA Cup defence. Veteran defenders Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn face fitness tests this morning before coach Arsene Wenger decides if they can play at Villa Park tomorrow. Dixon has an abdominal problem, Winterburn a groin injury. It would be a particular blow to lose both first-choice full-backs because the Gunners must handle the threat on the flanks posed by United's David Beckham and Ryan Giggs. Wenger said: "We will have to see how they are on Saturday morning. The character of both men makes me optimistic they will be available, but we will just have to wait and see." Wenger is without influential midfielder Emmanuel Petit, who is suspended. Nelson Vivas, Remi Garde and David Grondin will be on standby to deputise on the flanks, although Vivas could step in to fill Petit's role. Martin Keown was sent off against Blackburn on Tuesday, after discovering his seven-year-old son needs a major operation, but there are no fears about him coping with the fierce atmosphere. "Martin is in a much better frame of mind now," said Wenger." The Gunners coach insisted that United will not be affected by the 1-1 home draw against Juventus in midweek. "They are not out of the competition yet and they can still go through," he said. United looked strong in the second half. It was the same when we played them at Old Trafford and that is why we must concentrate for the whole 90 minutes." Wenger also predicted that "sparks could fly" in the midfield confrontation between Patrick Vieira and United's Roy Keane. "They are very strong and both are winners. It will be very interesting," Wenger said.
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Subject: Telegraph - Michael Crick 1-0 to the SUAM as BSkyB takeover is blocked - By Michael Crick, organiser of Shareholders United Against Murdoch IF ONLY I'd noted the names of all those who told us not to bother. "You're wasting your time," they all said last autumn. "There's no way Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson will ever offend Rupert Murdoch." In my heart I feared they were right. Mandelson is well known for his friendship with Murdoch's daughter, Elisabeth, and must be about the only Labour MP who isn't a football fan. Our chances of success, then, looked about as strong as Nottingham Forest's prospects of winning the Premiership. Nor did it help that the vast majority of United fans didn't seem to care much. Outside the ground, on the day the Sky bid was announced, I was horrified to find myself surrounded by supporters who thought the takeover was great news. "With Murdoch's money, we'll now buy Ronaldo," was the common cry. But there comes a point when one has to take a stand. We should have objected when the club was floated on the Stock Exchange eight years ago. But we didn't. Even if a protest is only a gesture, there are times when a gesture is worth making. Quickly, our campaigns gathered momentum. Already in existence was IMUSA - the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association, based in Manchester, representing ordinary fans. But not many IMUSA members hold shares. A friend from Manchester Grammar School, Richard Hytner, chief executive of the Publicis advertising agency, suggested a separate body to represent shareholders' interests. Other "Old Mancs" were quickly recruited. We would work with IMUSA, rallying those middle-class United fans who, famously, live everywhere but Manchester, channelling a wide range of professional skills. We knew we had to concentrate on the competition inquiry, marshalling the legal arguments which would persuade first the Office of Fair Trading, then the Monopolies Commission. We had help from one of Britain's foremost competition lawyers, and the City law firm Rosenblatt joined the battle. But it was only when our six-member team addressed the MMC in January that we began to feel there was any chance of success. The five-member panel seemed genuinely concerned about all the competition implications. There's an obvious temptation now, of course, to go back to watching football. But we can't be complacent. The danger is another bidder will come forward in place of Murdoch. Martin Edwards, with 14 per cent of the shares, would clearly love to sell his stake, and Sky - despite words to the contrary - must be keen to offload the 10 per cent they bought last autumn. SUAM is now seeking a meeting with the United board to discuss their plans for future ownership, and the possibility of setting up some kind of trust to combine the shareholdings of individual fans. But the best way to stop another Murdoch is for supporters to do what more of them should have done when the club was floated back in 1991 - go out and buy more shares - not for financial reasons, but as the best way to assure the club's future independence. Manchester United - The Legend - http://manunited.net
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Subject: FERGUSON OUT TO SILENCE GUNNERS By David Anderson, PA Sport Alex Ferguson must ensure his Manchester United players are not distracted by BSkyB's failed takeover bid when they face Arsenal in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final. The United boss will privately be cursing the timing of the announcement that the Government has blocked BSkyB's bid for the club coming as it did just 48 hours before one of their biggest games of the season. A few weeks ago Ferguson had called for the matter to be resolved one way or the other, but he would have preferred the decision to have come out at the start of next week and not at this critical time. However the United players did not let the frenzy surrounding the bid affect them back in September when the takeover was made public and he will expect them to be just as professional now. Ferguson is confident going into the Villa Park clash that his players will soon be getting measured up for their cup final suits. His treble-chasers are unbeaten in their last 21 games and he has won all four of his FA Cup semi-finals with the club. "There is a good consistency and I know that we're all looking forward to this game," he said. "The belief and confidence is certainly there. "We've got a great record in semi-finals at Villa Park and a great record in semi-finals in general. "The most important thing, though, is that we're going into this game in good spirits. "We've had a good season so far and we want to make sure it finishes a great season." Ferguson is not bothered by Arsenal's record of four wins and a draw from the last five matches between the sides. He is adamant that his players are talented enough to beat Arsene Wenger's Cup holders. "They beat us at Highbury in the league, but I thought we were unlucky in the last league game at Old Trafford in February," he said. "We played well and maybe could have had three or four, but these things happen in football." One disappointment for Ferguson is that he will be without Henning Berg. The Norwegian damaged his medial knee ligaments against Juventus on Wednesday night and came off at half-time to be replaced by Ronny Johnsen. Ferguson claims he could be out for three weeks and is unlikely to play in the Champions' League semi-final return against Juventus in Turin. "We're looking at two or three weeks out for him," he admitted. The injury is a cruel blow to Berg, who had been playing so well alongside Jaap Stam at the heart of the defence, and Johnsen will continue in his place. "It's unfortunate for the lad, but Ronny Johnsen, who played well against Juventus, will play against Arsenal," said Ferguson. The omens favour United. They have triumphed in their last nine semi-finals and they last went out at this stage in 1970. Sixteen years ago on the only other occasion United met Arsenal in the semi-finals they won 2-1. And the venue? Villa Park.
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Subject: Referee's decision on Man Utd bid was offside By Mark Milner Saturday April 10, 1999 The decision by the Trade and Industry Secretary, Stephen Byers, to block BSkyB's bid for Manchester United is being hailed as a brave decision. Labour has been criticised for cosying up to big business in general, and to Rupert Murdoch in particular. Yesterday's decision can hardly have been seen as doing anything for its business-friendly image or the warmth of its relations with the Murdoch empire. The reality is, however, that once the Monopolies and Mergers Commission - now the Competition Commission - and the director general of Fair Trading had come out against the BSkyB bid, Mr Byers' hands were tied. Imagine the furore that would have followed had he not done so, given the strength of popular feeling against the bid. More to the point, perhaps, Mr Byers would have been seen to be acting against his government's policy. It has already decreed that in all but issues such as defence competition decisions should be taken out of political hands. That may have been bad government - what are politicians for if not to take decisions that affect voters? But Mr Byers and colleagues can hardly introduce such a policy while the Trade and Industry Secretary is simultaneously overruling the CC. That leaves the CC decision itself. The first thing to say is that it was at best flawed and at worst wrong. It was taken without a crucial piece of information - the outcome of the Restrictive Practices court's review of the way in which the rights to broadcast Premier League are negotiated. At present they are negotiated collectively, but if the court rules that out of order and forces the league to allow clubs to negotiate individually, the case against BSkyB being allowed to own Manchester United would have become overwhelming. Manchester United is the jewel in the Premier League's crown. As the club's owner, BSkyB would have controlled the rights to a very large slice of those games which television's soccer audience most want to watch, and which BSkyB and its rivals most wanted to broadcast. The idea that BSkyB would agree to pass on such rights to a competitor is risible. As long as the television rights are negotiated collectively, the case for blocking the merger on competition grounds is much harder to sustain. Manchester United is only one of 20 clubs represented at talks over television rights, even if it is the biggest. Within such negotiations there would be conflicts of interest, given BSkyB/Manchester United's dual role, but despite the Competition Commission's doubts these would by no means be insurmountable. The idea of BSkyB/Manchester United opening the way to other mergers which might restrict competition is superficially more attractive. If other clubs were owned by broadcasters the CC scents the possibility of a cosy carve-up of the television rights. But any such situation would surely constitute a complex monopoly against which the competition authorities have powers to act. As for the broader case that the merger would reduce the prospect for competition in overall pay-television market, that is surely over-extrapolating the admittedly considerable importance of sport as a hook to bring in subscribers. Fans may worry that BSkyB might be tempted to sell the club's best players to finance other business ventures but that is a matter for commercial judgment, not for the competition authorities. Concerns that a BSkyB-owned Manchester United might break away from the premiership to join a European super-league may similarly be submitted to the judgment of the paying spectator, whether in the stands at Old Trafford or in the armchair at home. The concerns about the wider public interest are, frankly, odd. Professional soccer is already suffering from growing inequalities emerging on a huge scale. Premier League clubs are becoming relatively richer than those in lower divisions; those who regularly qualify for Europe richer than their premiership colleagues which do not. But are British clubs to be banned from Europe or the league structure to be based on, say, a regional basis for fear of a disparity of wealth? The CC's logic suggests they should. Looked at dispassionately, yesterday's decision would have been more logical had the CC argued that it was taken not because BSkyB's acquisition of Manchester United was against the public interest, but because it did nothing for the public interest. That begs the question of just who is allowed to own a soccer club. Perhaps the CC believes there are phalanxes of super-rich fans like Blackburn's Jack Walker just itching to spend their millions.
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