Around midday last Saturday, whilst many Manchester United supporters carried out their weekly match day ritual in preparation for the Wolves game, a group of Manchester United supporters gathered in the city centre at a pre determined location.
From this location, they descended upon Thomas Cook Travel Agents, one of Manchester United’s key partners, where en-mass, they entered the store, in an act known as a “Flash mob”.
The purpose of the flash mob is to legally disrupt the daily operational workings of the targeted business. The store was closed, business ceased, and a message sent to the head office of Thomas Cook. The flash mob had achieved its aim.
The act at face value appears to be without purpose. History tells a different story. In 2005, both prior to and following the Glazer takeover, flash mobs were successfully organised on the Vodafone and Nike stores in Manchester city centre.
- By November 2005, Vodafone had terminated its shirt sponsorship with the club halfway through its tenure.
- In 2006 Nike closed both of it's stores in Manchester City centre after several visits from Manchester United supporters, there is no evidence to link the closures with the flash mob, but why close two stores when the economy is riding high? Nike have recently returned to Manchester with only one store, which hasn't gone unnoticed.
- Ladbrokes ceased their affiliation to the club by the end of the season in 2006, after being flash mobbed in Manchester on Grand National day, which resulted in several stores closing with loss of income on what should of been a good day for business for any bookie.
- It was with regret that long time United supporter Fred Done, another bookmaker, came under the spotlight, however, it wasn't long before Fred withdrew as a sponsor of the Glazer owned Manchester United and is now looking to form a partnership with a major supporters group in the near future.
Thomas Cook was targeted for the flash mob for good reason, principally they are, perhaps, the prime example of excessive corporate capitalism of all the current sponsors.
In 2004, a coach from Manchester to Birmingham to watch the team was £8, and six years on it is very much possible for supporters to pay as little as £9 with National Express. Whereas with Thomas Cook, in its role of “official transport partner”, the charge is £25 for the privilege of taking Manchester United supporters from Manchester to Birmingham. In comparison to National Express minimum available price of £9, Thomas Cooks price of £25 is almost three times as much.
The club should be working with its "official travel partner" to provide affordable transport for those that invest their loyalty, love and support for the club all over the country and beyond. Instead, the supporter is expected to line the pockets of those that seek to profiteer and take advantage of the passion of our club’s supporters.
It would also seem that the club much prefers tourism before loyalty.
Only recently, Thomas Cook undertook to advertising and selling match day packages for the upcoming Champions League away game against Glasgow Rangers. You may wonder what is wrong with that? They are after all the "official travel partner".
What is wrong, is that Thomas Cook are guaranteeing "match tickets" with their packages in advance before the club allow it's most loyal support to apply for the same match tickets, and even then the applications of those loyal supporters often end in a ballot, where the possibility of a "chubbing" is a more than likely outcome.
It’s little wonder then that so many long standing supporters are falling away from the game with the cost of a match day increasing beyond their financial capabilities and generations of loyal support being rapidly forgotten.
What can supporters do?
Anders Red, in his brilliant Glazer busting blog, details the club’s commercial revenue at £81,438,000 in the 2009/10 annual accounts. He also describes that 40% of the club’s cash balance as of 30th June 2010 is in fact “deferred income”. This is income for sponsorship deals which are yet to commence. More Details Here
It is clear that a sizeable chunk of the club’s revenue stream is generated from commercial partnerships. As supporters are keen to see the removal of the Glazers’ ownership, this avenue of protest activity must be pursued, because;
- It creates a crisis of confidence amongst those companies with current commercial partnerships with the Glazers, and amongst companies pursuing commercial partnerships with the owners.
- It does not require high levels of media exposure. The store management will have to report the day’s events to their superiors, which in turn means senior management, and the all important decision makers at the sponsor Head Quarters will become aware of the anti sponsor activities.
- It is a legal, peaceful form of protest.
- Businesses need to recognise that a partnership with Manchester United Football Club under the Glazer ownership WILL be detrimental to their business, and that they WILL be the target of protest activity.
- The wider Manchester United supporter community can further assist by not using Thomas Cook for tourism or currency exchange
Instead of travelling to away matches with the club’s official partners Thomas Cook, boycott them and their aggressive prices, and travel with one of the many alternative independent coaches from around the area.
United We Stand and Red Issue fanzines together run a bus to every away match from Chorlton Street, with details in each fanzine of the upcoming away transport details.
All of these methods of transport will be decidedly cheaper than the official transport provided by Thomas Cook.
It's time to boycott Thomas Cook.