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http://www.rivals.net/news/pgarticle.aspx?artid=13490_4732963&id=50

IMUSA was founded in 1995 and came about because of the tensions between the fans' natural enthusiasm for supporting their team and the clubs' increasingly commercial approach that required us to sit down, shut up and passively hand over ever increasing amounts of money.

IMUSA is now the oldest independent fans' organisation in the country and continues to thrive, with membership being more buoyant now than at any other time in our history apart from the peaks of the takeover years. Membership is still the same price it was when IMUSA was first formed but from this year onwards increased benefits to members include access to a nationwide panel of lawyers expert in football related matters should these ever be needed and IMUSA representation for individuals who find themselves in dispute with the club or authorities. An emergency line number is also now provided on our website. Membership costs £5 and runs from season-end to season-end. Anyone joining now will continue to be a member until the end of the 09/10 season.

IMUSA members are also affiliate members of the nationally representative Football Supporters' Federation and IMUSA chair, Mark Longden and vice-chair, Colin Hendrie continue to serve as elected members of the FSF's national council.

IMUSA's year - 2008 The year began with Alex Ferguson's comments about quiet home crowds. It is difficult to sing and get a good noise going whilst sitting down which is why it is IMUSA's contention that the atmosphere at Old Trafford would be greatly improved if the rules to do with standing were less zealously enforced (or better still if purpose built safe-standing areas were installed in some sections of the ground). This is not a safety issue since the only independent report into this (commissioned by Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council) concluded that standing behind seats the whole time is actually no more dangerous than remaining seated.

The current rules allow standing in 'moments of excitement'. There is however no definition of what constitutes a moment of excitement or where it begins and ends. There is therefore room for flexibility that does not seem to be being exercised, hence IMUSA's comments to the effect that the inside of Old Trafford was sometimes like a 'police state'. Somewhat laughably this led to Sky TV cameras being banned from the next United press conference as punishment for broadcasting these comments!

February was naturally dominated by the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster. The club still refuses to officially speak to IMUSA and the lack of critical input from an independent fans' organisation is frequently evident but none more so than when a mistake in the words to the 'Manchester United Calypso' emerged only after the mural was put up on the East Stand. There were also mistakes in the words to "The Flowers of Manchester" in one of the displays in the newly renamed 'Munich Tunnel' but apart from that and a couple of errors of judgement (i.e. the inclusion of the AIG logo on the mural and the size of David Gill's name on the commemorative plaque) the club handled the occasion well and we congratulate them. The sight of the whole ground holding up red and white or blue and white bar scarves on derby day was truly unforgettable.

IMUSA's part in these commemorations was to organise the ceremony at the crash site in Trudering near Munich and we would like to extend our thanks to everyone who helped us with this. Many local residents who were present at the time of the crash and helped with the rescue of those that survived attended the ceremony as did friends and relatives of the players. This was also an unforgettable ceremony and it is clear that the memory of the Babes is in safe hands with all that knew them and know of them. There are more details about this commemoration here

This year also marked the 100th anniversary of the winning of our first league title and IMUSA officers gathered at Billy Meredith's grave in Manchester's Southern Cemetery on the 50th anniversary of his death in April 1958 to lay a commemorative wreath.

Success on the pitch took us to Moscow and thanks to funding from the FSF IMUSA members were able to assist with the 'Fans' Embassy' there. These embassies are a familiar sight at England away games and are put in place so that ordinary fans can help out other fans with information about the city, the ground and public transport etc. Over 10,000 information leaflets were handed out and thankfully most of the problems that had occurred when England played there a few months earlier were avoided. This was mainly due to the Russian police suspending the rules about flying flags in Red Square and understanding that waving the St George's Cross was not meant to be a protest in favour of the similarly named but troubled former Soviet Republic that shares the same flag. We won of course and that was a complete joy for everyone but for some the visit to Moscow was a little tarnished because the club firstly charged everyone £11 for transport that Chelsea fans were being offered for free and then refused to refund this money when that transport wasn't provided.

In the context of Fans' Embassies, IMUSA has been trying to persuade the club for quite some time now to introduce these for our European away trips but without success. The club are adamant that the current arrangements work so well that fans' embassies are not needed. We of course question this and remain convinced that had they been in place in December 2007 (i.e. some months after IMUSA first raised this issue with the club) then the Roma 4 would not have found themselves in an Italian court being represented by an incompetent state appointed lawyer who could not speak English. Thankfully, other clubs have now seen the value of these embassies but it is to be regretted that Manchester United has chosen not to take the lead here.

General Issues A good deal of IMUSA's work this year has been advising individual members about problems they have had to do with evictions and/or season ticket confiscations. Our broad conclusion is that fans are suffering because the club does not employ 'due process'. That is, supporters do not have the automatic right to an independent hearing or even a right to appeal against disciplinary action usually taken by stewards who are not necessarily qualified to do the job they are charged with and who often do not clearly identify themselves properly. One IMUSA sponsored motion at the last FSF conference was to require stewards to wear clearly numbered jackets that are colour coded according to the qualifications of the person wearing them. That may or may not happen but in either case we will continue to pressure the club, directly and through the Independent Football Ombudsman to adopt 'due process' as part of the Manchester United customer charter.

We also remain concerned that members of the Fans' Forum are appointed by the club rather than elected by the membership and that the activities of the Fans' Forum are not transparent. Our position is that there is no reason why Fans' Forum membership cannot be based on independently adjudicated democratic processes and that to do otherwise leaves the club open to accusations of unfairness at all levels, including those to do with breaches of its own equality policies.

We are similarly concerned with regard to lack of transparency. As of 1st January 2009, the latest Fans' Satisfaction Survey results on the official club website are dated 2004 whilst the latest minutes from the Fans' Forum date from April 2008.

Again we feel that the club is leaving itself unnecessarily open to criticism, firstly in that it could appear to some that it is trying to set the fans' own agenda for them and secondly because the club seems not to be complying with its own undertakings in the Customer Charter to consult with fans and to keep them informed.

IMUSA's view is that unless the club seeks genuine consultation with the fans and adopts a sincere willingness to respond to constructive criticism then already poor standards of customer service can only continue to get worse.

Finally Note to Manchester City Council/ Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council.

Manchester United have won the Premier League and the Champions' League in the 100th year since our first league win and 50 years since Munich

and still no parade... ?

IMUSA 1st January 2009
 
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