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ArabFORUM XXII
Question 1

Putting aside the shocking price we had to pay for the MyPa game (it should have been no more than £10 – at most) once again we were let down; embarrassingly to the worst team ever seen at Tannadice, a bunch of woeful amateurs from a European backwater. I demand an apology.

I think I’ve answered most of this sort of thing on the previous Forum but maybe it’s time to take a different tack and stop apologising.

Yes, we should have won that game. The result has had a severe impact on the Club, both in financial and morale terms, and it has also had a huge influence on the way the club is being perceived by fans and outside observers alike. Your belated mail is a fairly representative example of this.

Without wishing to make excuses, I do think we also have to retain some sort of perspective as well. We should have won the game – comfortably – but didn’t. Not the first time this has happened in football, and it won’t be the last. Even (whisper it) in the glorious 80s, United lost games we were expected to win and should have won, and I mean no disrespect to those involved then.

As for the grossly unfair and ill informed comments regarding MyPa, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. In Scotland we seem to have an embarrassing and annoying habit of denigrating teams from other countries and conveniently ignoring the fact that, in reality, times have moved on and they are regarded, by almost everybody else, as better than us.

MyPa are not an amateur team but a highly organised professional outfit, funded by the biggest employer in the region. They have just won the Finnish League, to add to their national cup victory, and are regulars in European competition. They performed very well against Grasshoppers of Switzerland in the next round, ironically going out after losing late goals at home after being in command of the tie. And before the Finnish league title is discounted as irrelevant, maybe I should point out that Finland is ranked much higher in the FIFA world rankings than Scotland - Finland is ranked at 40th in the world, while Scotland is in 74th place. Oh, and Adriano (the only Brazilian who can’t kick a ball, according to some commentators) finished top scorer in the league.

I repeat, that on the balance of play, we should have won this game. But we had no divine right to expect it. The fact that we outplayed the Finns for the vast majority of the game should, perhaps, be taken as a positive, rather than a negative, sign.

While I was away recently, I was a little puzzled to see that Hibs didn’t get anything like the same flood of negative publicity when they lost 5-1 to Dnipro. Don’t get me wrong, Hibs are a decent side and I have every respect for them. But most commentators, quite rightly, praised their opponents – a team which is struggling in 5th bottom place in their league, in a nation ranked only one place higher than Finland. The assertion that MyPa are a poor side in comparison is surely somewhat flawed.

We’ve made our apologies and I think now that the time for apologising is over. Let’s move on and make sure that the undoubted potential at Tannadice is finally realised.

Question 2

Why are United so secretive about their finances? The published accounts are so out of date they’re meaningless and I can find no up to date information on the website. In the last year the Club has incurred huge costs in terminating contracts and bringing in highly rated players. This obviously increased the debt. It’s common knowledge around Dundee that the Club is hiding debts in excess of £11 million and as a loyal season ticket holder, I deserve to know the up to date position.

Secretive? I think you must be confusing us with somebody else. The one thing we have done over the last few years is to be completely open about the state of the club’s accounts. They’re not pretty, but they are getting better.

Indeed, some might say that we’ve been too open as, contrary to what you believe, being a private limited company we are under no obligation to make information available other than to shareholders and via Companies House. However, given the parlous state of Scottish football finance, we took the view that supporters should be given as much information as possible. The website, enewsletter and, indeed, this Forum, have all carried topical information on the financial situation and regular briefings are given to the local media and to supporters’ representatives.

The latest financial year ended on 30 June and adjusted figures have only recently been finalised and provided to the auditors. Strictly speaking, these figures should not be made available publicly until audited and approved by the Board and by shareholders. However, in view of the “common knowledge” accusation, I’m happy to provide you with the actual situation, which could hardly be more current.

The net loss has been reduced to £1m, from a figure of £1.9m in 2004 and £2.9m in 2003. This is very much in line with our forecast and three year plan. We hope to reduce these losses further in the current year, ideally to break even, but of course this depends on the performance of the team. The 2005 figures benefited of course from both SFA and SFL Cup income (both however, offset by considerable performance related bonus payments for the players) and could have been even better had it not been for a substantial drop in SPL income.

The debt I assume you’re referring to is bank borrowing as, apart from normal trade creditors, there is no other debt. The bank debt consists of a £6m long term capital loan and a £1m overdraft facility. The combined total as at the end of the financial year on 30 June this year was £6.6m – not far off being half the figure you mention. The total borrowing facility has never been exceeded since it was agreed. There are of course loans from Directors but these are not excessive and are included as capital in the accounts.

It would be helpful if you could pass this factual information to those who perpetuate these malicious and damaging rumours, particularly when they are presented as “common knowledge”.

Question 3

As a mature looking 17 years old Dundee United fan, I have been encountering problems when asking for a juvenile ticket at games recently. I am regularly questioned by the turnstile staff at Tannadice and this can be quite embarrassing. As a 17 year old school student, short of bringing my passport with me to every match, I have no way of proving my juvenile status! I would appeal for some common sense and leniency. For the sake of a few pounds, United fans should be given the benefit of the doubt - after all, we are "the best fans in Scotland".

While I sympathise with your predicament, I can't really fault the turnstile operators for doing their job.

Dundee United is one of the few clubs who provide concession prices for under 18s (many other clubs restrict this to Under 16) and occasionally, despite what you might think, it does get abused.

Tickets for the East Stand can be bought in advance of match days and this might be a better way for you to ensure concession pricing without it being queried every week, otherwise a season ticket seems the ideal solution to your particular problem.

Question 4

My kids (4 and 6) are not yet active fans but they have Terrors membership this year and are keen to come along to some games. I promised the eldest that I would buy her a top, and when we looked at the website she said that she wanted a new away top. When we visited the shop, they were sold out and haven't had any new stock for several weeks. Can you tell me when they might be available?

I'm told that stock will be delivered at the end of October but that there may not be a huge supply as this is the final stages of the current TFG deal.

Question 5

As a parent of a boy involved with United’s youth development may I express my thanks to all involved with the Youth at United website. The time spent providing updates for all age groups must be considerable and hopefully the club appreciate the site as much as I and the boys do.

It gives the boys a regular interest in the club to which they've become attached, despite, in this case, their father’s allegiance to a member of the Old Firm.

Long may the Youth at United website flourish and once again thanks to those who give up their own time to provide a valuable source of feedback and, at the end of the day, great entertainment. Very few clubs come near.


Thanks for your comments. I totally agree with what you say and I will be sure to make Graeme Liveston and his team aware of the feedback.

Question 6

What is the policy on ArabForum items? I have communicated in this way on a few occasions now but not all appear on the forum though to be fair I always receive a reply. Do you censor items to prevent embarrassment to yourself, the team or the Club?

There's no real policy as such.

I try to publish a representative selection based on topicality, interest and any common themes coming through. As you can imagine, there is a lot of very similar, if not identical, mail received and for publication purposes I try to amalgamate similar questions and responses. Some questions, although answered, are not included in the published version for all sorts of editorial reasons. All very subjective I know but best I can do.

I try to be as open as possible but certainly would not publish, for example, any personal criticism of individual employees of the Club. I’m sure you would expect your own employer to act similarly. However, I really don’t think anyone can accuse us of censorship for the reasons you give. If this were so, many, many Forum items would not have been published, including many which expressed quite extreme criticism of the Forum and, indeed, myself.

Some correspondents say we’re too open and shouldn’t include any critical comments at all, whereas others seem to think it’s censored. I suppose we can never win on this.

Question 7

I was just wondering whether or not the club has links with any other clubs? I was sure I read somewhere we had a link with FC Copenhagen. If so, why don’t we get some of their players?

I'm not aware of any formal, or even informal, links with any clubs, either now or in the past. I think the Copenhagen one was mooted some time ago, reported in the media as such, but never materialised.

Question 8

Just a note to say a belated thank you for the wonderful occasion that was the wee derby at Tannadice, prior to the 'BIG DERBY' during the Discovery Cup weekend. I was the scorer of our 3rd penalty and the response from the crowd was an amazing feeling. Hopefully it will be an annual event as I would love to be part of it again. I’d also like to thank Mike Barile, who did an excellent job in organising the guys on the day in such a short timescale.

It was great wasn't it? Almost the best thing about the weekend and I hope it can be repeated if we hold a similar tournament next year. It should be us who are thanking you though; a fantastic fund raising initiative with United for Kids benefiting, and all played in the best of spirits.

You're absolutely correct too about Mike. He does a power of work on behalf of the Club, and the Trust, which mostly goes unnoticed.

Question 9

The numbers of visitors attracted to the DUFC web site is excellent. Have you considered forcing new users of the web site (after one click within the site) to enter their details? This would provide valuable demographic information and discover the motivation for people using the site This information could then be used to market DUFC more effectively.

We deliberately avoided registration requirements for the launch of the new site for various reasons. We're now looking into the possibility of an additional subscription based website but this is not a priority and early investigations do not seem to suggest a significant benefit in terms of capturing data which is not already available to us.

Question 10

Regarding live internet coverage. Does the SPL still own the rights to this, or does DUFC benefit financially through this coverage?

Clubs own the rights to their own games in the SPL and therefore we do gain a small financial benefit from licensing our own games for internet broadcasts.

Question 11

What is the legal issue preventing the live coverage being viewed in England and could this change in the future?

Current UEFA regulations dictate that these broadcasts cannot be screened live in the UK and there are strict "blackout" restrictions to comply with. I can’t see a change in the short term, but you never know for sure.

Question 12

Someone has pointed out to me that Euro DVD clip against Porto is not actually United but another European team playing in tangerine! How could this happen? This is hugely embarrassing and heads should roll. Unless I receive a satisfactory explanation by return I’m going to write to the press.

I’ve been away for two weeks and, coincidentally or not, someone informed the press about this in my absence.

A few supporters alerted us about this error shortly after the DVD was released. We contacted the production company concerned and the mistake was uncovered. The footage had been included in a bundle of archive material and, probably due to the very short nature of the clip (around 20/30 seconds or so), had not been immediately obvious as not being United. Indeed, those who viewed the “rushes” at Tannadice did not pick up on this either as we were more intent on identifying the opposition. We received an immediate apology from the company who produced the DVD and accepted this. Some might argue that we should have demanded more than this but, in reality, we should have realised the error earlier and the responsibility lies here.

It was an honest mistake, honestly made and included in good faith. Those who have contacted us about it have accepted this explanation and not a single complaint has been received – until now.

The DVD was actually researched, produced and published by the media arm of a well known Scottish tabloid newspaper. I have to say therefore that I was somewhat surprised and disappointed that the same tabloid chose to highlight the error as some sort of United “own goal” shock, horror story. Still, who says life is fair?

Question 13

It was well publicised some time ago that some United players were forced to take wage cuts and alter their bonus payments. I think I’m right in saying that bonuses were now to be paid on overall league performance rather than for each game. Maybe this is why the team are not winning games?

I don’t think it would be right of me to comment on individual remuneration packages of employees at the Club and I can’t speak for the players in this respect, but I would certainly be surprised and disappointed if this were true. Apart from anything else, it would be based on a complete misunderstanding of the facts and would be counter productive to both the Club and the earning potential of the players.

While you are correct in that it is a matter of public record that both salary and bonus structures were altered last year, Dundee United still offer some of the most attractive salary scales in the SPL. It would be difficult to obtain similar packages outwith a very few clubs in Scotland. I’m sure the players appreciate this.

It is also on record that bonus structures were altered in the way you describe to reflect the way that the Club receives income. Interestingly, despite reducing our wage bill considerably and, just as importantly, reducing the size of the squad last year, the overall total for players’ wages was only marginally less in 2005 than it was in 2004. This was entirely due to the amount of bonuses paid out to the players for the agreed performance related bonus amounts for the CIS and Scottish Cup. An improved league position would have added to this.

I’m sure that many of those who read this will be familiar with performance related pay and that this is generally based on agreed annual performance targets. We have attempted to also ally this to the level of income earned by the Club from certain performance achievements. Whether this is right or not is a matter of opinion but I think that most people would think it reasonable.

Question 14

Is it not about time United ditched Amarillo and got back to the more traditional songs before, during and after the game? Why have these been ditched?

I’ll be sure to pass your comments on to the stadium announcer although no doubt opinions will differ, as usual! However, it’s certainly not true to say that the more traditional songs have been ditched. Maybe you just aren’t around at the right times.

Question 15

Some SPL games attract a poor away support. In order to boost attendances, and atmosphere, at these games why don’t United enter into a reciprocal arrangement with say, Kilmarnock, Livingston, ICT and Motherwell to offer away fans £5 admission? Even if only 1000 fans took this offer up, the Club would gain and seats would be filled, rather than empty.

Not so sure there would be a financial gain actually and, if not, why would we want to encourage a larger away support at Tannadice? Having said that, I appreciate the suggestion and the sentiment behind it.

However, if your suggestion was to be pursued it would obviously have a significant impact on our own supporters. I don’t think they would be too happy at the prospect of away fans paying considerably less than themselves. Season ticket holders in particular would complain - and quite rightly so.

There is an SPL ruling that clubs cannot charge differential pricing to home and away fans. This is obviously designed to discourage clubs charging away fans more than their own fans. Clearly, however, the opposite is also true.

Question 16

Why does the website not include a weekly update from the Manager on what has happened during the week, with injuries and so on, and any other information leading up to the weekend game?

Unlike most other SPL Clubs, Dundee United has a long standing arrangement whereby the Manager holds a DAILY press conference for the local media and press agencies. It is an unwritten rule that they then have first "exclusive" rights to the answers given and comments made. These are then reported extensively in the media thereby rendering any other coverage repetitive and unnecessary. There are of course certain exceptions to this in respect of major news stories but in the main, this is how it works. The website provides links to all the major Scottish sports media stories, under What The Papers Say.

When the new website was launched we did have a weekly update from the treatment room but were advised to discontinue this on legal grounds.

Question 17

Having spent a considerable amount on season tickets this year and seeing this going on players, then are we the supporters going to have a team to be proud of? We deserve better!

Please believe me when I say that no one understands your frustration, or shares your disappointment, more than ourselves. The results so far, are unacceptable. We are, as you say, one of the few teams in Scotland to go out and acquire players. While opinions may well differ, I doubt if anyone would question the ability or pedigree of those signed. Despite this, success has still not been found.

You can tell from this that we are just as concerned with the situation and the effect that it is having on all areas of the Club, including vital income earning areas.

I will not patronise you by saying that matters are bound to improve. There are no guarantees in football. However, I would say that, despite some unfair comments, the squad which has been assembled has the quality and undoubted potential to do much, much better and I am positive that they will be anxious to prove this in the months ahead.

Putting your disappointment aside, I would urge you to keep supporting the team positively. This is when your support is needed more than ever.

Question 18

Despite some of the critical entries received, I’d just like to congratulate the Club on the Forum feature. The responses are not only refreshingly honest, they are to the point and don’t consist of the usual fudge type clichés we’re all so used to and sick of reading and hearing in the predictable sports media. What’s the point of sending in a complaint (or a rant!) if you take offence at getting an honest response? Some of the answers have certainly made me rethink a few of my opinions and quite a few have even made me laugh. Information and entertainment on the website, and all for free. What more could we ask?

Thanks for this and the many, many similar emails received since the last Forum update. Not everyone agrees and I’ve also received mail complaining about the number of “extreme” critical or abusive entries included, saying that they should neither be answered nor published. The problem is of course, how do you define “extreme”? What is an extreme or even abusive comment to one person is obviously a legitimate complaint to another, no matter what we may think. Having said that, I can advise that a considerable number of entries are deleted on receipt due to the offensive nature of the content or language.

I’m not sure whether the amount of mail received specifically about the Forum is good or not. On the one hand it shows there is a healthy debate and interest in the content of the Forum, but on the other hand the Forum itself should be secondary to the main issues of the day. Maybe at some point we might need to re-consider it.

Question 19

I’m writing to say that I didn’t get into the MyPa game until nearly 20 minutes after the kick off. And guess what? It was my own fault for turning up at the usual two minutes before kick off, knowing full well there would be a good crowd with queues. Maybe if some of those others had turned up early or not gone to the pub they might not have had so much to complain about!

Thanks for taking the time to write in. However, we still could, and should, have arranged things a bit better.

Question 20

After taking advantage of the new U12 SPL passport scheme at Motherwell, I assumed the same arrangements would be in place for the game against Hibs. On arrival at Easter Road I found that this was not the case and that only 100 U12 tickets had been sent to Tannadice for distribution. I find this quite staggering - surely the club must make a better effort to make sure the information is passed on to fans. For example can I pick my sons ticket for the Dunfermline game up at the Livingston home match the week before? If not why not? I attend all matches home and away surely this is a case of look after your loyal fans first.

The administration of the arrangements for the U12 passport scheme is the responsibility of the "home" team. Although the scheme is still in its infancy, it is already apparent that different clubs are administering the scheme in different ways. The system employed at Easter Road, for example, was the exact opposite of what was in place at Fir Park recently. This should have been communicated earlier.

While Dundee United have advised all clubs of the arrangements at Tannadice for each game, I have also asked for a system to be put in place whereby we pro-actively obtain the necessary information from clubs well in advance of our away fixtures, to allow us to ensure that the relevant information is posted to the website and the weekly enewsletter.

For your information, Dunfermline Athletic have now advised us that they also will be restricting U12 passport numbers to 100 for our next away game and that they will send us vouchers before the game, together with adult tickets. They have instructed us that vouchers can only be issued if an adult ticket is purchased at the same time. We have not yet received the tickets and have asked them for an early delivery date, precisely for the reasons you describe.

Question 21

I went to the Club Shop, as instructed, to obtain U12 passport tickets for the away game at East End Park for my two sons. However I was very disappointed to be told that I could only receive one free ticket as I was only purchasing one adult ticket. The three of us attend all United games, home and away, what way is this to treat loyal fans?

One of the principal conditions of the SPL passport scheme is that the passport holder can only gain free admission if accompanied by a full paying adult. These are the rules and Dunfermline, quite correctly, advised us to strictly adhere to these rules when distributing tickets. We had to fully account for and balance the complete allocation and I believe this was explained to you.

I suppose one more positive way to look at this is that, unlike last season, the passport scheme meant that you only had to pay for one of your sons to attend this game, instead of both of them.

Question 22

You mentioned in a recent Forum that existing season ticket holders could have purchased a season ticket for this season for as low as £205. Why then, as an existing season ticket holder, did I have to pay £210??

At one of the home games last season (I think it was the Aberdeen Scottish Cup game), £5 vouchers were distributed to all fans who attended. These could either be used to gain a £5 reduction on the next home game, £5 reduction off goods in the Shop or £5 discount on the cost of a season ticket for existing season ticket holders. The production of the voucher would have reduced the cost of the cheapest ticket from £210 to £205.

Question 23

I have recently attended two home games at Tannadice and was annoyed to find that myself and my friend could not sit together due to the number of reserved stickers. Surely all these seats cannot be reserved? I also asked about buying tickets in advance but was told that getting two seats together would be impossible.

The location in question is almost fully sold out to season ticket holders and any available seats do tend to be single ones. Because of capacity considerations, advance tickets can be purchased for the East Stand but again, it would be difficult to get two seats together in this area.

Question 24

Some of the match reporting on the website and newsletter is so biased its embarrassing. Do you wear tangerine tinted specs to write it?

If we can’t be biased on our own website, where can we be?

Seriously, we try to give a balanced view but clearly try to dwell on the positives rather than the negatives. The website reports and enews ‘preview’ are all written and prepared by a team of volunteers – all United supporters. This was done deliberately as we wanted to give these particular publications more of a fans’ point of view. However all of us, including the fans, are also aware that these are official club publications and we operate within informal guidelines. Despite the various and numerous pitfalls which can occur in this type of reporting, I can’t think of any significant problem occurring and I think they do a fantastic job.

Once again, if you think you’d like to help out by contributing to any of our publications I’d be happy to hear from you at communications@dundeeunitedfc.co.uk

Question 25

I find the website match reporting and weekly newsletter to be too negative in their outlook. Surely it’s up to the Club to put a more positive slant on things?

Can’t win really, can we? I think a stiff drink is in order.

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