Newsletter #552

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Views on the BSkyB investment take centre-stage in this issue. Opinions seem to be divided fairly evenly, which surprises me. I think that this situation would have provoked a outcry a few months ago, not least because of BSkyB’s Rag associations. That it hasn’t is due in part to a satisfaction with the stewardship of Bernstein and a desire to believe that things are finally starting to go right at City. I really hope that this is true, but I can’t help an uneasy feeling that we’ve made a Faustian pact.

Anyway, it’s a dull weekend in prospect with no City game; only a kickabout between England and Scotland to divert us. We haven’t had any Why Blue’s for a while, so one or two would be nice for Tuesday’s edition.

Next game: Charlton Athletic away, Saturday 20th November 1999

NEWS SUMMARY

City Brush Off Expulsion Threat

City and Leeds United have both been quick to brush off reports that the two clubs could be expelled from this year’s FA Cup following claims earlier in the week that BSkyB’s minority shareholdings at both Maine Road and Elland Road may contravene the competition rules. A story in Tuesday’s Guardian newspaper claimed that the presence on the board of each club might be seen as creating a conflict of interest in contravention of the rule which states that “no club may participate in the competition where that club is interested in another club”. The initial response of an FA spokesman was to say that, “I’m sure we will be speaking to both Leeds and Manchester City about this matter in good time for their entry into the third round and resolving any issues.” However, the governing body later expressed the view that there was unlikely to be a problem as long as a different person is nominated at each club. Director Chris Bird will be unsurprised at the FA’s stance, having greeted the news with an explanation that the parties to the City/BSkyB deal had already examined “the ramifications for the club and the competitions which we will take part in.” The Yorkshire club have been equally unconcerned by the rumours, with secretary Ian Silvester assuring the authorities that, “There’ll be no conflict of interest.” The misguided report received wide media attention and follows Monday’s claims that the terms of the deal contravene Premier League Rules.

“Five Other Clubs Interested” in Cup-Tied Taylor

City striker target Bob Taylor is attracting a growing legion of admirers if press speculation is to be believed. The latest report claims that City have had a £800,000 bid turned down for the ex-Brentford front man and that if Gillingham sell their top scorer, the price could be driven up by increasing interest in the player. Premiership sides Liverpool and Leicester are now said to be considering moves for Taylor, along with Charlton, Ipswich and Norwich. However, Tuesday’s events must cast doubt over whether the Gills want to sell Taylor at all after he figured in Tuesday’s Cup replay against Cheltenham. Manager Peter Taylor has consistently emphasised his desire to see his namesake stay with the Kent club and may have taken a small step towards seeing this happen by ensuring that the player will be ineligible to feature for a new employer in this season’s FA Cup. Meanwhile, Joe Royle’s latest comments shed little light on the saga. “We haven’t lost our interest though it is still no further down the line. There has been communication between the two clubs though I wouldn’t say we are near to signing him,” said the City boss. “At the same time I wouldn’t say that we are definitely not signing him. The situation hasn’t changed an awful lot with the player.” There have been claims that the Gills will not sell Taylor until after completion of a share issue on 22 November.

Dutch Trialist Flops in Reserve Defeat

After losing their opening three Manchester Senior Cup games (two on penalties), City reserves failed to improve matters away to Bury on Wednesday. Jamie Pollock’s goal wasn’t enough for the Blues, who went down 2-1 at Gigg Lane. City fielded Feyenoord’s reserve central defender Bernard Schuiteman, who was on trial at Maine Road and had reportedly looked good in training. However, the Dutchman failed to create the same impression when given a chance in match action, and Joe Royle confirmed on Thursday that, “Bernard played in the reserves last night but we won’t be taking any more interest in the player.” Meanwhile, transfer-listed midfielder Michael Brown also featured in the second string line-up. Royle denied having received any enquiries for Brown from other clubs, but the ex-England under-21 man was thought to be the main attraction for several watching scouts.

Midfield Pair Set for Loan Moves

City youngster Gary Mason looks set to become the latest Maine Road fringe player to benefit from the loan system. Hartlepool have enquired about the possibility of taking Mason on a temporary transfer, though any move will be delayed until the 20-year-old Scot recovers from a head injury received in Wednesday’s reserve game. Manager Joe Royle commented, “I think it would do Gary good to get on loan somewhere but I will have to chat with him about it.” Meanwhile, Jim Whitley, who’s already had a spell at Blackpool this season, could soon also be away on loan again. Royle explained, “Jim is trying to get match fit. He is willing and looking forward to going out on loan again to get first team games. There are limited first team opportunities because the side is doing so well and there are so many in front of him. Jim could do with games quite desperately and if anyone needs him on loan we will put it to him.”

Youth Cup Draw Brings Home Tie

City have been handed a home draw in the opening round of this season’s FA Youth Cup. Either Bristol City or Plymouth Argyle will visit Maine Road for the tie on a date yet to be arranged. With evident progress being made at Academy level, hopes will be high that the City juniors can make an impact on this year’s competition.

Peter Brophy (brophy_peter@hotmail.com)

MATCH REPORT ‘LIVE’

QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS vs. MANCHESTER CITY, Saturday 6th November 1999

I write this as a Derby County fan. I went to the game with my mate Chris who most certainly is CTHD! I have to do the IT things (like subscribing to McVitie) for him because he’s a Luddite without access to a PC either at home or work. I’ve tried, I really have!

Anyway, we make our way to the ground only to be turned away from the BBC car park which we were assured by every source was okay for a fiver. Ar*e! It was all pre-booked so off we go to Ariel Way. Nothing on-street but get parked for £2.50 in probably the bumpiest car park ever. Still for £2.50 who can complain?

Walk to the ground, not a QPR fan to be found along the way (no surprise there). Spend 15 minutes walking all the way around the ground because you can’t get access to the away end from the front of the stadium. Ar*e again! Not only that but you’re not allowed to walk on the road so have to cram yourselves with all the QPR fans (so that’s where they were), programme sellers, police horses, queues etc.

Eventually get to the correct gate. What a crap ground. I know I’ve got used to Pride Park but I mean… Is it de rigueur to get frisked at away grounds? I thought that sort of thing went out with the fences. The “meat pie” was more of a potato pie but quite filling. Chris didn’t seem that impressed with the hot dog either. Go to our seats. Nigel Edney (MCIVTA 551) was right about the narrow walkways and the views.

The game was quite good, especially the second half. Rangers were the better side in the first half and deserved their 1-0 advantage at half time. Kiwomya was a constant threat and Granville looked out of his class against their right back. Steiner was a rough house number 9. How he didn’t incur the wrath of the ref (who only seemed to pull himself together about half way through the second half) is beyond me. The linesman on the left was rubbish throughout the whole game and should be relegated to the Dr. Marten’s League. City’s defence looked rattled although I gather that you were without your top two central defenders so that may have had something to do with it.

Second half a different City trotted on to the pitch. They looked great, really keen and incisive. Joe Royle needs to do his half time team talk at five to three! The difference for me was Peacock. He was all over the place and always looking for the ball. It was his flick on that gave Horlock that chance to slot coolly home for the equaliser. City needed to score again soon because they seemed to go off the boil (not helped by Kennedy’s substitution ) and Rangers should have sealed the game with two good chances. Weaver didn’t look good with the high ball (two or three flapped attempts at catches or punches). Still, I would have thought that a point at a resurgent QPR (and I thought they looked quite good) was not a bad return.

I would like to say that I don’t think I’ve been to a game (except perhaps the Derby-Liverpool game in 1988) with a better, or more noisy set of fans. You are a credit to your club. The chanting started at 2.55pm and didn’t stop until 5pm. Fantastic. The Premier League will be a better place when you get back up and I hope Derby can welcome you at Pride Park next season.

Martin John (mjohn@oxford.gov.uk)

BSKYB OPINION I

As much as I hate and despise Murdoch, let’s make one thing very clear. His money is just as good as any other investor. Who would have believed this time last season we would be top of the 1st Division, effectively debt free and £10 million burning a hole in Joe Royle’s wallet (go on, who!)?

This is the most successful period for City for almost 25 years. We have all seen the bad times, time and time again. Let’s be positive, hopeful, confident yes, even a little bit arrogant (just a little bit!) for a change. There is no doubt we have turned the corner and we are on our way. If MCFC would have refused his money it would have been gladly taken up by Wolves or Birmingham or some other ‘big’ club with potential. The job that this board of directors have done since the farce of Franny Lee and his cohorts is truly amazing. They deserve our thanks, respect and gratitude. The Murdoch deal is a superb piece of business, let’s not forget that’s what football is these days, and when was the last time you saw Murdoch back a loser? He doesn’t back losers, only winners! For once we are in the position to be winners. Rejoice!

Ray Bardsley (RBardsle@smcpneumatics.co.uk)

BSKYB OPINION II

This is David Bernstein’s first serious mistake. Sky’s satellite operation could not have succeeded but for the Premier League contract. Murdoch is not interested in football and never has been. He is interested in making money, regardless of who or what gets damaged in the process.

We already have to put up with ludicrous kick-off times and last minute changes of fixture dates to accommodate his minority TV stations. FA rule 30 states: “no club may participate in the competition (FA Cup) where that club in interested in another club.” Each club, according to the Guardian, must convince the FA that no one from Sky has any power whatsoever to influence the financial or commercial administration of that club, otherwise they may not be allowed to compete in the FA Cup. How the boards at Man U, Leeds and City can convince the FA of that is beyond me. If Sky have a 9.9% stake and a director on the board then they obviously have some power to influence the administration of the clubs.

City’s potential in footballing (and hence financial) terms is so great that it would easily be possible to get investment on our return to the Premier League and whilst hard nosed capitalists want a return, there are sources of finance which are not so tainted as this one and where the controllers of the finance want an interest in one club, not another foothold in their bid for total control of the whole industry.

We should be against this deal and we should campaign with the other clubs’ supporters, yes, even Rags, to stop the increasing moves towards monopoly control of English football by Sky. The 10% rule should be scrapped. It should not be possible to hold any shares in more than one club.

Stop this deal!

Mike Carver (Mike_Carver@broadway.co.uk)

BSKYB OPINION III

I agree with the BSKYB deal. I think the money and the coverage we will hopefully get will be great for the club, though I can’t see Joe Royle going out and blowing £10 million. But I can see him buying if we need, like a class centre back (’cause all ours are injured). I think that both strikers we are buying are tall and so maybe need a Marion Pahars or Robbie Keane style player.

I’m not sure however about the move from Maine Road. It has all our heritage in it and why not just wait till we do the quint (FA Cup, League Cup, League, Champions League, and Charity Shield (sod the treble!)) and make our millions, we could save up for a San Siro stylee (notice the styleeee) stadium. Then we can also have a team of world class players including Nicky Weaver.

My favourite player is Kevin Horlock. He was our Mr Consistent last season (apart from Weikens) and got us back into the play-off final. He is the only member of the team who can score from the most likely places; no-one else can do it. He is also doing well this season with 6(?) goals so far.

Lee Peacock is a good signing but I’m not sure that he and (New) Taylor will do well together.

Ian Ramsbottom (rambo03@yahoo.co.uk)

BSKYB OPINION IV

Just thought I’d chuck in my tuppence ha’penny regarding the Sky investment. What Murdoch is trying to do is prepare the way for digital television’s Manchester City Channel. Armed with digital televisions we will be able to watch City live for every match by paying a yearly subscription. It’s like the way Sky Sports operate now except at present you only get to see City on Sky for maybe ten games every season. With the ten percent investment in City and other clubs it reduces the money Murdoch will have to pay the clubs for exclusive broadcasting rights of their games. The only potential worry is the subscription City fans will have to pay to watch the club on telly every week. Hopefully Bernstein and Co. can keep this down (on the days the team aren’t playing, City Channel can broadcast rolling coverage of the Gillingham game).

I think it’s a good thing because although you can get an audio commentary of the City games via the MCFC web site you do feel like a partisan resistance fighter sitting in a cave listening to the World Service for scraps of news. I work for the Sunday Times but it’s okay, I don’t want to take over the world.

City Till I Die And My Remains Are Interred In The MCFC Satellite in OrbitOver Maine Road, Francis Long (Frannie) (flong@indigo.ie)

BSKYB OPINION V

Following Gareth Thomas’s comments in MCIVTA 551 about BSkyB’s investment in the club, I would take issue with a number of the comments made about the investment itself, and his views on other people’s reaction to the deal.

Firstly, David Bernstein has said that he has waited patiently for the right time and company to come along that would assist our club in the right way. I see no reason to disbelieve him in that BSkyB are not only able to invest sums in football generally, but also have more of a vested interest in the clubs being successful. For BSkyB to get a return on their investment, football generally, and armchair football in particular, needs to be successful. In particular, the clubs in which they have investments need to be successful and hence assist the television income to BSkyB.

Therefore they make a return on their investment without having to take that return from the club itself. Compare that to the case of so many take-overs at football clubs where all available funds go directly to the previous owner to buy them out, leaving nothing to benefit the club itself (Oldham have this to contend with right now). With a 9.9% investment, they cannot dictate policy at the club any more than any of the other major shareholders (Lee, Swales’ estate, Boler’s estate, Makin & Wardle, Greenalls etc.); hence we should not be worried about club policy being dictated by Murdoch. After all, they’ve only bought 9.9%, not the whole club.

Gareth then claims that this investment would make us hated amongst other fans. Well, it seems to me that the main thing that winds other fans up is arrogance from clubs and their fans. Although a number of 2nd Division fans last year claimed we were arrogant to them, generally we have been lauded for two main reasons. Firstly, our unbelievable attendances and loyalty in light of subsequent relegations and all round poor performances, and secondly as an antidote to the hatred shown towards the Rags. No one said that they liked us because of the fact we were owned by Swales/Lee etc, so they won’t hate us for the same reason. We haven’t been taken over by Murdoch – he’s bought some shares in the club, and put some money in the coffers. If that turns us into a successful, trophy-winning side that are hated by all other fans in the country for our ability to beat all before them, then I am sure I could put up with it.

Mark Cowen (mark.cowen@virgin.net)

BSKYB OPINION VI

I could not agree with you more about ambivalence and Rupert. In fact I feel ambivalent about the imminent prospect of the Premiership. I like my football to be played on Saturday. It’s part of Saturday and therefore part of why I follow football at all. Midweek games lose their relevance to some degree.

Donald Couper (donald1@lineone.net)

CHARLTON TICKETS PLEA III

Following onto the 2 pleas for Charlton tickets in MCIVTA 551, and realising that I’m probably going to be unlucky on this one, does anyone have 1 (or 2) spare to sell? I am currently living in Poland and bought my flight tickets for that weekend before finding out that both Charlton and City (despite having a season ticket!) had both sold out.

If anyone could help then please email me on iain_sellers@pl.tesco-europe.com

Iain Sellers (iain_sellers@tesco-europe.com)

CHARLTON TICKETS PLEA IV

Do you have for sale, a single spare ticket for the Charlton game on the 20th? If so, please mail me on the address below, or phone on 01242 526906.

Mucho gracias, Simon Owen (rmotherwell@ncl.com)

STRIKER SUGGESTION

In our quest for strikers, isn’t Paul Kitson an ideal acquisition to the squad in order to show our Premiership desire? Not out and out as a striker but he scores goals and is very good at linking attack and midfield. Let’s spend the cash if the price is right. What about on loan till the end of the season?

Graham Lord (gooch@logos.cy.net)

COOKE SONG

Can anyone enlighten me as to the words of the song about Terry Cooke and Posh Spice?

Richard Ellor (rich@apr-leasing.co.uk)

LIONS RAMPANT

I was wondering if anyone has an image of the old City badge that they wore in the 1981 Cup Final, I seem to remember that it has two lions either side of the emblem.

Richard Burden (burden@enterprise.net)

WANTED – KAPPA MINIKIT

I know this isn’t Exchange and Mart, but can anybody spare me a “minikit” that are hung in cars. I am looking for the first Kappa away shirt, the white one with the navy and maroon horizontal bands. I am willing to pay £5 for one in decent condition but it must be the double sided kit. I will even throw in last season’s Wembley striped jobbie (the cheaper one-sided cut-out one that sold for £3 or so).

Anybody willing to help can contact me at: stevemcfc@aol.com

I promise I won’t haggle!

Steve Kay (stevemcfc@aol.com)

CITY ON TELE IN NORWAY

The State channel in Norway has started broadcasting the English 1st Division. That is good news for City fans in Norway! Every Saturday there will be a 1st Division match on TV. And of course there will be City matches! That is not all; a channel in Sweden is also sending 1st Division from England. The channel is called TV4. Two weeks ago they showed Man City – Blackburn live. That was nice!

Why these channels are showing 1st Division and not Premiership matches is that Channel +, a pay TV channel, owns all the rights to the Premiership.

English football is very popular in Scandinavia and the 1st Division is a good alternative to the Premiership. But City are going to the Premiership next year so then we will have to get pay TV.

Finally City is back on TV in Scandinavia!

H

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