United fans delay Sky deal

 

Fan power has forced BSkyB's proposed £623 million takeover of Manchester United to be delayed by at least two weeks.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in Britain, who will rule on whether to refer the controversial deal to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, has been deluged by complaints, forcing them to extend their review by 15 days.

So far, 350 complaints have been received by the OFT, far in excess of what would normally be expected from one of their cases.

"Three hundred and fifty responses is an unusually high number, there is no doubt about it," said an OFT spokesman.

"Usually we get complaints about takeovers from the companies' rivals, but here we have had a large number of complaints from the fan base."

The OFT's inquiry timetable will now end on November 2nd, by which time it will have to make their recommendations to the Department of Trade and Industry.

In their offer document, received in the last two days by United's shareholders, BSkyB seeks to pacify supporters worried that the deal would make the club less independent both in the player transfer market and in negotiations with media organisations.

As a sign of good faith, the broadcasting company has also waived rights to a veto on all financial deals up to £1 million.

However, the gesture has not appeased United's army of supporters, who have vowed to continue the fight to stop the deal going through.

"The delay is excellent news," said Steve Briscoe, vice-chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association.

"The OFT is astounded by the reaction. We just hope it goes to show that we are not to be trifled with.

"It shows that we are not just a raggy-arsed bunch of football fans who can be trodden all over by the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

"Rumour has it that he has heard of us. Up until a few weeks ago, if you'd asked Murdoch about us, he would have asked who are they? We are making a difference and hopefully that will continue.

"We are pleased with the decision and hope this goes to show that football fans are against this takeover.

"We hope now that Rupert Murdoch will be true to his word - he claimed he would pull out of the deal if it was referred to the Office of Fair Trading."