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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Carlisle Utd Trust members join campaign to give fans greater voice

TWO members of the Carlisle United Trust will today join more than 60 MPs at the Houses of Parliament to campaign for greater “stability” in the way football clubs are run.

The event, which is being held in the House of Commons’ Jubilee Room, is hosted by the Supporters Direct organisation, the umbrella organisation for fans’ trusts.

They are calling for a proposed new licensing system to guarantee a structured relationship between fans and clubs, and for the government to “remove barriers” to increased supporter share ownership in clubs.

United Trust chairman Norman Steel and media officer Frank Beattie will travel to the event, with Carlisle’s John Stevenson among the MPs due to attend along with sports minister Hugh Robertson.

Steel said: “The aim is to get the message across to the football authorities of the impact that greater supporter participation can have. We are the only league club in Cumbria and giving the community a greater voice has to be the aim.”

The meeting follows a select committee report, presented to football’s authorities in 2011, on football’s governance.

There have since been calls for the game to come under closer financial control under a strict licensing system.

Steel said United’s trust was ahead of many similar organisations in its development but conceded its membership of “around 300” was too low.

“The fact that the United Trust has been going for some 10 years, we already have a shareholding and a director on the main board of the club, suggests we may be a little bit ahead of some other trusts in their development,” he added.

“Awareness is the key word now. I would suggest the more members we have, the greater role that they can have at Carlisle United. Over the years, because of the very difficult decisions we have had to take for the benefit of the club, all has not always been rosy in the garden. However, there is a much more cordial atmosphere now between the club and the trust and there is no reason why we can’t develop that relationship even further. Our membership has been as high as 1,400-1,500 in the past. Numbers have dwindled but I would like to think that with the correct type of exposure we can begin to address the imbalance in those numbers.

“The football club should be a community asset, pure and simple. It’s our club. As the trust, we have a percentage, and as supporters we should be able to add to the club.”

Steel said efforts needed to be made to improve the Trust’s outdated website, whose most recent press release is dated 2009.

In December Steel caused controversy when he appeared to suggest manager Greg Abbott’s position would be reviewed at the end of January, with Carlisle’s other directors distancing themselves from the claim. But he has now spoken of his admiration for Abbott after the victory against League One leaders Tranmere. He said: “It’s been tight and tough for the man but if he can produce performances like that when he’s supposedly under the cosh, it speaks well of him. He has that reputation of being a fighter.”

On the state of United’s finances, Steel added: “Cash flow is tight but there are many clubs in the same boat. We have to be extremely aware of costs. If we can attract more supporters it makes such a difference to the manager in what he is able to spend.”

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