Manchester United have announced the membership of its new Fans' Advisory Board, which has been set up to strengthen dialogue between the club and supporters and increase fan input into decision-making.
Seven fan representatives from a range of backgrounds have been appointed to act on the board on a voluntary basis to provide counsel to club leaders and create a new channel for consultation with fans.
The board will be co-chaired by Christopher Saad, an experienced barrister and life-long Manchester United fan, and Richard Arnold, the club's group managing director.
Saad grew up in Greater Manchester among a family of United fans and has attended Old Trafford regularly for over 25 years. As a leading barrister with a specialism in sports law, he has represented clients in football-related cases and holds membership of disciplinary panels for several national sports governing bodies.
Saad was the unanimous choice as co-chair following an extensive search process. The selection panel included club leaders, representatives of the Fans' Forum, the club's existing fan representative body, and the independent Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST).
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United's Fans' Advisory Board is designed to create a channel for in-depth board-level consultation, with a focus on long-term strategic issues, including stadium development. It will operate in parallel with the Fans' Forum, which will continue to focus on operational issues affecting fans.
Two members of the Fans' Forum, Ian Stirling and Rick McGagh, have been elected by fellow forum members to join the board to ensure a strong connection between the two bodies.
Also on the board will be Jonathan Deitch and Duncan Drasdo, chair and chief executive of MUST, respectively. The other two fan places will be taken by Deborah Henry, chair of the Manchester United Women's Supporters' Club, and Oli Winton, a senior communications consultant and long-time United fan activist.
Dave Pennington, a retired senior civil servant and board member of MUST and the Football Supporters' Association, has been appointed special adviser to the co-chairs.
Meetings will take place four times a year, with five senior club leaders also part of its permanent membership in addition to Arnold as co-chair. Joel Glazer, the club's co-chairman, will attend the inaugural meeting in January.
The Fans' Advisory Board was part of a package of measures proposed by Glazer last June to strengthen the club's relationship with fans and the club has been working with fan groups to implement these since then. Other initiatives included a Fans' Share Scheme to create a path for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake in the club over time. Advanced talks are continuing with MUST about the details of the proposed share scheme.
Collette Roche, Manchester United chief operating officer, said: "The launch of the Fans' Advisory Board is an historic step to ensure that the supporters' perspective is always heard and understood right up to the highest levels of the club. This will improve decision-making and reduce the risk of conflict with fans on the most important issues.
"We agree with the independent Fan-Led Review of Football Governance that fans must have a strong voice in the running of the game, and we believe that our Fans' Advisory Board and proposed Fans' Share Scheme are consistent with that important goal.
"We are delighted to have attracted such a high calibre of individuals to the board, all with a strong passion for United combined with the skills to advocate on behalf of fans. I am looking forward to working with Chris and the other representatives to get the board up and running and establish a key role for it at the heart of the club."
Christopher Saad said: "I'm delighted to have this opportunity to combine my professional skills with my lifelong passion for Manchester United as the first fan co-chair of the Fans' Advisory Board. I firmly believe that we will establish a positive new model for fan engagement in football. Sometimes there will be agreement, sometimes we will challenge hard. We will not shy away from frank discussion. Our aim is to widen the areas of consensus and narrow differences, and to help maintain a healthy and successful football club which is in tune with its supporters. I look forward to working with my fellow fan representatives and club leaders in achieving those aims."
Manchester United caretaker boss Michael Carrick says there has been no "drama" at the club over his decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo out of his starting line-up for Sunday's draw at Chelsea.
Ronaldo was left on the bench despite his fine goalscoring form and made little impact following his 64th minute introduction, before quickly heading down the Stamford Bridge tunnel at the final whistle as the game ended 1-1.
Carrick was placed in temporary charge following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking and is set to remain in charge for Thursday's clash with Arsenal, as United's newly appointed interim boss Ralf Rangnick awaits a work permit.
"I think them type of discussions get blown up really, a lot bigger than they probably are, when you're kind of inside the team or the club," Carrick said on Wednesday.
"Decisions are made for a lot of different reasons and of course certain ones get bigger news than others, but that's how it was.
"I didn't see it as being a major decision. It certainly wasn't within the camp or group. We all got on really well. The game went well to an extent and it wasn't a drama at all."
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