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United Trust History

The United Trust came into being over three years ago. But back in 2001 when the organisation was formed it was known as the Carlisle & Cumbria United Independent Supporters Trust or CCUIST for short.

The Trust's Roots

Brian HallThe Trust's roots are in the formation of the independent supporters' group CISA (Cumbrians' Independent Supporters Association) back in 1999. The idea behind this organisation which was founded by Brian Hall, a long-standing supporters organiser, was to establish a totally independent fans group in the wake of the winding-down of the Official Supporters' Club and to look into the feasibility of forming a Trust. The CISA came into being before the dawning of a new age in football with the foundation of Supporters' Direct (SD) in 2000. SD is a government-funded body whose main role is to provide financial support and advice for new Supporters' Trusts.

Although the CISA in its original form did not directly evolve into CCUIST, the efforts of Brian and his committee sparked interest in the idea of forming a Trust amongst other groups of fans and so it came to pass that in early 2001 a 'gang' of four of them got together in a pub outside Carlisle to thrash out the beginnings of what was to become CCUIST.

The First Group Of Volunteers

Dick YoungWorking at first behind closed doors, the first group of volunteers held a series of meetings in and around Carlisle to get people involved and launch the Trust at a special public meeting to be held in the Sands on the morning of the final match of the 2000-01 season.

A press launch was held a week before this momentous date and the first wave of application forms went out along with invitations to the big meeting on the following Saturday. Dick Young, Billy Rafferty and Ross Brewster all made appearances in the local media to kick the CCUIST idea into life and that first public meeting will go down in history as one of the biggest ever staged in Carlisle.

First Meeting

Fans at the Official Launch of CCUISTSome 1,100 supporters packed into the Sands on Saturday May 5 2001 to hear the Trust's fledgling leadership speak of their plans to raise money to buy shares and also to campaign for a change of ownership.

Alan Steel, who was CCUIST's first secretary, made his speech where he compared the cost of buying shares to the hardship of giving up two pints of beer a week. Thus the regular share fund donation was born and within a week of that meeting, over 200 United fans had already signed up to join the Trust.

Boycott and Protest Marches

By the start of the following season, that figure had swelled to over 700. CCUIST was a great success story but the problem of the ownership remained. CCUIST balloted its members as to whether they should boycott selected home games in protest at the stalled negotiations. Some 70% voted to stay away if they were asked.

Protest MarchIn the event, the new season brought false hopes of an early end to the ownership problem as would-be buyer Brooks Mileson withdrew from talks with Michael Knighton. CCUIST's response was to make their protests known through a series of marches, starting at the city's Turf Inn and continuing through the city centre and along Warwick Road to Brunton Park. Fans were advised to make up their own minds if they wanted to go into the ground or not. Approximately 300 supporters marched on December 1 2001 before the home game with Scunthorpe. Maybe the spirit of the occasion brought United luck. Whatever it was that inspired them, they won that match 3-0. The next march, held on January 12 2002 brought even more luck. Supporters made their way to Brunton Park waving banners and holding KNIGHTON OUT posters and the game against Leyton Orient that followed brought Carlisle's biggest win for many years - 6-1. However the most important person at the ground that day had not been amongst the marchers. His name? John Courtenay.

That emphatic success was a turning point in the 2001-02 season, lifting United off the bottom rungs of the table and on their way to a safe finishing position of 17th.

John Courtenay

John CourtenayThe protest march held that day was to be the last for some months. Within a week of the demonstrations outside the ground, John Courtenay had already reached an agreement with owner Michael Knighton. He believed he was on the verge of acquiring a controlling stake. CCUIST Board members were by now in contact with Mr Courtenay and it was during the next few tense weeks that hopes were continually raised, and then dashed of any breakthrough being achieved.

The relationship between CCUIST and our potential new owner developed and a strong bond was established between the two parties. CCUIST was privy to some of the detail of the negotiations and continued to hold back their protest whilst doing everything they could publicly to encourage Mr Courtenay to achieve a successful purchase.

But as we all know on the afternoon of the 6th of April 2002, manager Roddy Collins was relieved of his position as team manager following comments made about the state of the takeover in the media.

March Around Brunton Park

Knighton OutThe reaction of supporters at the next away game at York on the Tuesday night led to a rapid plan to stage a huge protest before the final Saturday home game against Plymouth Argyle. CCUIST recognised that Argyle fans, who were hoping to celebrate the clinching of the championship that afternoon, would not be willing to boycott the fixture but nevertheless, they were invited to take part in the pre-game marches.

An estimated 600-plus supporters marched around the ground before the game and continued the demonstrations during the match that Plymouth won 2-0. Just 3,080 turned out for the traditional end of season party with almost 1,000 of those supporting the visitors. The size of the protest brought very positive media coverage and was the precursor to more protests before the final match against Cheltenham and a weekend of 'Knighton Out' activities which involved a mock set of stocks being erected in Carlisle city centre, a series of banners being placed around the town, a slogan appearing on the Civic Centre windows and a go-slow convoy of up to 100 vehicles down the M6 motorway.

Administration

John CourtenayBy the end of May things had moved on apace. The club was placed in administration following a winding-up order brought by the Inland Revenue. CCUIST urged its members to write to the Revenue asking them to reject any proposals that might allow the ownership to stay in place.

A gloomy AGM of the Trust was held at the Lakes Court Hotel in which 100 CCUIST members gathered to hear of the state of play at Brunton Park. John Courtenay and Brooks Mileson had joined forces at this stage and there was talk of a deal being done with the administrators to buy the assets of the club and continue in the Football League under the guise of a new company.

Club Change Hands

CUOSCIn the end, new talks were hastily arranged between Mr Courtenay and Mr Knighton and on Friday July 26 2002 it was finally announced that the club had changed hands, three years after the first set of talks had been held and 15 months after the public launching of CCUIST.

The news brought relief to United fans everywhere and CCUIST were quick to open talks with the new owner about the possibility of buying shares in the club in return for an elected representative to sit on the Board. At this time, CCUIST members were instrumental in resurrecting the Official Supporters' Club (CUOSC) which went on to raise thousands of pounds for the club in its' first full year of operations.

Fans Representative

Alan SteelA deal was agreed in principle and elections were held in November to decide who would serve as representative. Alan Steel won the most votes in this election, defeating Dick Young and Brian Hall at the ballot box.

However, a quick resolution to the problem of acquiring shares in a company that was still operating under a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) was not in sight.

CCUIST Acquires Shares

Cheque HandoverEventually in the New Year an agreement was reached to acquire new shares in the football club's holding company, CUFC Holdings Limited, and to transfer these shares into the football club proper once the company had managed to come out of the CVA. A cheque for £100,000 was presented to John Courtenay before the LDV Vans Trophy Final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on April 6. Some 25 new shares were issued to give CCUIST a 20 per cent share of the holding company.

Alan Steel took his seat on the Board and a further two CCUIST Board members in Dick Young and Lord Clark of Windermere were both been invited to sit on the Board by John Courtenay. Approximately £5,000 per month was being invested in the club as CCUIST sets off towards the target of raising a further £300,000 by the spring of 2006.

Financial Difficulties

FansEverything wasn't rosy though in the United garden. As the Cumbrians slid to the bottom of the league at the start of the 2003-04 season, and manager Roddy Collins was relieved of his position, it was becoming clear the club still had significant financial difficulties to overcome.

Although they finally exited the CVA in October, they were still reliant to a great extent on John Courtenay's financial backing to keep on paying the bills.

CCUIST Relinquishing Its 20% Option

Alan SteelBy March the financial position had started to become critical and so Alan Steel, in his position of club director, devised a system of new finance for the club. It involved CCUIST relinquishing its 20% option for the purchase of further shares and new investors coming on to the Board as associate directors in return for stakes of £20,000 each. The Trust however, would retain voting rights on these shares.

However this scheme ran into legal difficulties and on March 26 Alan Steel resigned his position on the board of the football club and as chairman of CCUIST. The events of that evening eventually set the train in motion for a new look and a new name for the Trust.

New Chair

Kate RowleyKate Rowley took over as chairwoman and set about revitalising its fundraising efforts. The Trust Board gained approval from its members for the relinquishing of the 20% option and re-negotiation to a guaranteed 25.1% stake in the football club. Owner Courtenay gave approval for a change to a single 25.1% stake, however, in order to complete this purchase, they would need to raise a further £350,000 over three years.

Name Change

The United TrustIn order to boost this fundraising effort, the Trust Board consulted its membership and decided to change their name to The United Trust, in recognition of the fact that the organisation was now very much a part of the club and no longer needing a long and unwieldy name to reflect their connection with Carlisle United FC. Alongside this name change came a new campaign, dubbed '£350 for United' with the aim of getting 1,000 individuals, businesses, pubs, clubs and schools to raise £350 each in return for a plaque on a special 'Wall of 1000' to be situated outside Brunton Park as well as a whole host of other benefits.

New Owner

Fred StoryOf course, this scheme had barely been launched in July of 2004 when the shock news came out of Brunton Park that John Courtenay was to sell his majority shareholding to Fred Story. One of the first tasks for the club's prospective new owner was to meet the Board of the United Trust to seek their approval for the takeover. This was granted in late July. The takeover was completed at the end of August.

 

Brooks Mileson's Big Match

The Trust announced an innovative "1 for 1" deal with local insurance tycoon Brooks Mileson, a well known supporter of the Trust movement nationally. Mileson agreed to put in 1 to the share fund for every 1 raised by the membership. Mileson also agreed to underwrite the cost of the CUFC Centenary Dinner in November 2004. This proves a big success, with Italian football legend Franco Baresi and former England skipper Bryan Robson both attending as special guests. The Blues Lotto is also launched by the Trust during the autumn and proves a big hit, with over 1,000 regular players. The club eventually took this on in the summer of 2005 and have since developed it as one of the most successful lotteries in the county.

Share Dispute

Brooks Mileson offered in November 2004 to make a one-off donation of 600,000 to the Trust to enable it to complete the purchase of 40% of Holdings as per the existing shareholders' agreement. Due to an impasse in negotiations with Fred Story, this was still in place. However Mr Story publicly challenged aspects of this agreement, in particular the ongoing right of the Trust to protect their stake against dilution. An ongoing and protracted legal dispute followed which led to the Trust obtaining a temporary injunction against Mr Story selling any of his shares. Mr Story went to the High Court in November 2005 to try and get this injunction lifted but the Judge Sir Donald Rattee upheld it and put in place a surety of 80,000 upon the Trust . This was duly paid over to enable the continuation of proceedings. Mr Story had publicly withdrawn from negotiations in August of 2005. In March 2006 he eventually agreed to go back into talks and these were held in London on May 10. After exhaustive negotiations a compromise was reached and this was recommended to the Trust membership by its Board. They voted to accept it at a Special General Meeting held at Brunton Park on June 18, 2006. The new agreement allows the Trust to purchase 25.37% of shares in the club's holding company at a total cost of 800,000. Holdings can issue new shares but it must also offer them in an equal portion to the Trust at 1 each, enabling the Trust to protect its stake for future generations. Kate Rowley stood down as fans' rep as part of this new agreement and was replaced by Norman Steel with Chris Fuller as his deputy.

Share purchase completed & CUFC land asset protected

In December 2006, a loan of 60,000 was taken out to acquire the final tranche of shares, giving the Trust a 25.37% stake in CUFC Holdings. The Trust is currently raising money to repay this loan, through continued donations & special events such as race nights, golf days and supporters social evenings. A High Court order was obtained in May 2008 to protect an area of 110 acres of land near the River Eden and bordering on the Tesco store at Rosehill, from being given away by the football club. For two years, the club had stated its intention to 'gift' the land to former owner John Courtenay, following an alleged agreement between Story and Courtenay at the time of the club's sale in 2004. Costs in this action are still to be finalised. The land was valued at 540,000 for agricultural purposes by Knight Frank in 2008. However there is outline planning consent on a 5 acre plot near to Tesco. The club are now required to sell this land at no less than full market value and must also put in place an overage clause which will allow the club to benefit from any increase in the land's value at a later date.

 

 

 

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