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Old 15th November 2004, 00:19   #1

J.D.'s Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 11,524
Default An open letter to the mods of the official Man Utd msg board

As many of you know or have experienced, the moderators on the official Man Utd message board have expressed some concerns about Shareholders United. While we find it a bit strange that these individuals - given their positions - don't know the facts about us and have taken somewhat of a provocative stance against us, we wanted to address their concerns in an open and forthright manner consistent with the type of organisation Shareholders United is.

The questions were articulated by a moderator who goes by the alias 'Condor'. The answers are interspersed with his questions.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
There are many question about SU and its practises that dont get answered. If you are here promoting SU then perhaps you will give clear precise answers. Are there any audited accounts for SU for members to look at?
Our accounts are professionally managed and are discussed in the full light of day at our AGM. See for example the minutes of our last AGM here:

Further, our accounts are filed every year in accordance with the Companies Act and are available for the public to download from the Companies House website for a small fee (it's their fee, not ours so you know).

There are no secrets with Shareholders United. We are an open organisation. You'd hardly get the same out of Malcolm Glazer. Try asking him for a full and complete accounting.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
Why does it cost 15 to join when you want potentially another 5,000,000 members?
Actually, it's 10 UK, 12 EIRE/EUROPE, 15 ROW. The difference in prices accounts for the differences in postage. While the efforts of the elected directors and committee members are all done on a volunteer basis, things like advertising, mail shots, the newsletter, and printing are neither free nor cheap. There are also some modest costs associated with the administration of the Shareholders United Share Scheme and there is the odd social event as well. But basically your membership dollars help us defray our costs. Further, any charges or fees are made clear on membership forms and in our Constitution.

We think it's important to note as well that if one wanted to buy a United share through a stockbroker you could do this (and that's fine with SU) but you have to pay a transaction fee of something like 15 to 25 before you could buy the share. Hence this SU membership is very attractive for many Reds.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
Why do members have to sign over their voting rights for someone else in SU to use? Why cant they retain their voting rights to use as they see fit?
The truth of the process is that before each PLC AGM, Shareholders United hold a meeting for members to vote democratically (one person/one vote regardless of shares held) on how SU should vote the shares in the Share Scheme as well as the the shares any members with private shareholders have pledged to us via proxy.

So it is the members of SU decide how the voting rights are exercised, not 'someone at SU' -- as if there were some secret cabal running this show. And these are people who go to Old Trafford every weekend, many of whom are members of IMUSA as well. SU is further supported by all of the major United fanzines - Red News, Redissue, and United We Stand.

One of the benefits of exercising our shares collectively (through voting) is because as a bloc we have a far more substantial impact than we would by acting separately. There is one agenda at Shareholders United: to keep our club independent. If you are a member of SU, then this message is one that appeals to you.

If you want to vote on your own, you are welcome to own shares privately and buy them through a broker. No one is stopping you from doing this, and actually Shareholders United are in favour of anything that gets more shares in the hands of supporters. But we think many find the Share Scheme both easier and cheaper vehicles for purchasing shares.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
How many share transactions do SU make in a year? What value of shares does that represent?
We make one batch transaction per month, the value of which varies and increases on a monthly basis. Many of our members have private shareholdings which they've committed to the cause as well, and we continue to be in contact with shareholders asking them to pledge their shareholdings to vote with us. If you are interested in the ongoing figures, regular reports are provided at the open Committee (and Director) meetings and general meetings.

Note: For the record, people with private shareholdings should know that their personal shareholding is not affected by joining SU. Whether you are a member of SU or not, the shares are always owned by YOU.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
What is the fee or precentage of transaction charged to SU for their annual share transactions?
First, let's correct the misconception inherent in your statement. We give you a free share when you join and renew your membership.

The fee for additional share purchases, either on a standing order basis or ad hoc basis, varies based on the number of shares purchased. But we have negotiated a very low rate (far lower than if you were do buy shares individually) with Brewin Dolphin Securities.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
How much is paid to representatives/committee members for their services annually?
Glad you asked. None of the representatives or committee members makes a single penny off their work for Shareholders United. FULL STOP. We are all volunteers. Don't believe us? Come to the next AGM where you can hear how the money is truly spent. This is a horrible myth perpetuated by people who somehow believe our motives are suspect. They are not. We do this out of a love for our club and in defence of 126 years of tradition and support. In fact many of us spend just as much time (if not more) in support of this cause as we do our 'regular jobs'. And for some of us, this IS our 'regular job', one we gladly do for free

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
How much is paid in other expenses for legal or investment advise?
Most of the legal, accounting, and investment advice we are privileged to receive comes pro bono from reputable firms whose partners are sympathetic to our cause by virtue of their own support of Manchester United. We evaluate their performance annually and have always been quite pleased with their efforts.

For the record though, we are registered at Companies House and the Share Scheme is backed/run in partnership with Cobbetts, Brewin Dolphin, and Co-Operative Bank and our legal advisors are Weil Gotshal LLP.

Originally Posted by Condor, one of the moderators on the club's message board
Do any other parties, business, charities or individuals recieve any financial assistance from SU revenues?
Another good question. While we have made an occasional donation to a worthy cause, the vast majority of your membership money goes towards SU activities, not those of any other organisation. If SU is ever dissolved all money goes to charity/local community. All this is articulated in our Constitution.

We do provide free advice and moral support to a number of other supporters trusts. And we take up grievances of non-member supporters and branches for free with the Board.

Now that we've got those questions sorted, let me add one thing for the record.

Correct me if I have misunderstood you, but I take the tone of your questioning as being at least mildly provocative -- as if we were carpetbaggers hawking some sort of shady merchandise.

You should know and understand the following:

We are recognised by the Board as the official Supporters' Trust of Manchester United FC, we have regular dialogue with them, and we are represented at the Fans Forum. We have a link from official MU website. We are supported by the Government-backed Supporters Direct, the association of all football trusts in the UK. We have received support from FIFA and the Parliamentary All Party Football Group (chair Alan Keen MP) and Parliamentary Man Utd Group chair Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central. The next time you want check out our credentials, you can also try checking with the Manchester United company secretary David Beswitherick, United finance Director Nick Humby, Chief exec David Gill or even United Chairman Sir Roy Gardner.

We are 18000 strong, actively working to secure the independence of our club from the true carpetbaggers - the investors who would have us solely for profit and bankrupt the club.

The people who lead us have been democratically elected in a one-person/one-vote process that ensures equality of voice regardless of one's means or shareholding.

Again, if I'm wrong about the tone of your comments, I apologise. But Condor I seem to recall that we've had previous conversations about this matter. We're not the ones with anything to prove or disclose around here. Our hands are clean, our books are open, our intentions are honourable and our efforts are relentless.

So in the future we'd appreciate it if you treated the members of our group with the respect they deserve. All they're trying to do is save their club. Whether you follow this path is your own choice, but do not look askance at theirs.

In conclusion, thank you for your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future, or post your questions to our discussion forum.


Kind regards,
Shareholders United

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