As most know United found themselves banned from European competition in 1977 after the battle of St Etienne and after the Heysel stadium disaster in 1985.
A less known ban was issued to United in 1970. Although United had failed to qualify for Europe in 1969/70 the club was also banned from friendlies against any European opponent.
A joint Football League/Football Association commision held an inquiry into United’s finances and turned up so called “irregularities”- minor breaches of Football league and association rules which numerous other clubs at the time were no doubt practicing and over the years evidence has come to light of said breaches.
Five offences were proven against United including “An unauthorised loan of 100 pounds to Mr D Sadler”, the loan itself was not only paid back but the powers that be admitted that they would have given full authorisation for the loan to be paid, the problem was United did not ask permission of the footballing bodies to give the loan.
The committee investigated United were unsurprisingly Mr Bob Lord of Burnley whose views on United were well known from as far back as the 1950’s; Lord was also a main rival in the Lancashire meat market to our very own Louis Edwards, also Sam Bolton of Leeds United. The fuse by 1970 was already lit on the Manchester United v Leeds rivalry, it would be like officials from Manchester City and Liverpool investigating us today!
The punishment itself was handed down by various FA officials and members from Leicester City and Newcastle United – the punishment was to ban United from playing ANY European opponent and also a £7000 fine.
In the circumstances the fine would be enough for the minor breaches, the powers that be knew the money that United could gain from playing European friendlies against major names from the continent would easily outweigh and fine and also with no european income it was a way of curtailing Uniteds finances.
Television’s Michael Parkinson at the time wrote for the Sunday Times and wasted no time in attacking the FA and FL verdict.
“Connoisseurs of the absurd can tip their hat to the FA and FL in the acknowledgement of the finest comedy duo since Laurel and Hardy.
They showed all their comic talents in Manchester when a joint commission of both bodies sat in judgement on Man Utd.
Are we seriously to imagine that it was worth all the magisterial might of the FA and Football league to prevent landladies getting an extra 30 bob a week?
What sinister implications are we to read into the fact that an employee borrows money from his employeeS, I had always believed it was money that made the world go round.
What is wrong in paying 11 players £250 for playing in games watched by over 100,000 paying customers and similary why should they not be recompensed when a situation not of their own making prevent them going on a club tour.
As for paying for digs for amateurs, I find it so piffilling as to be unworthy of even a unkind comment.
It is so curious and sad that soccer should be so poorly served by its legislators.
The £7000 fine is neither here nor there to a club of United’s stature but the ban on United playing friendly games against foreign teams is a sad loss to a club that pioneered European football,without I may add any enthusiasm from the likes of the Football league.
But the saddest thing of all is at a time when football gives every indication of striding boldy into the future it should be harrassed by the snapping of a group of men who give every indication of being entombed in the 19th century.”
The Football League admitted these were only “Technical offences” and United would have been given permission to do the things they were punished for; to think, to this day, fans of other clubs say United have the footballing authorities in their pockets.
United would resume friendlies in 1971 and our “return” to european football was in the infamous Anglo-Italian cup; our real return to Europe having to wait until 1976 when we would meet and overcome the European giants Ajax, a night at Old Trafford that announced United were back and one that all who were there will never forget!
Written by Martin Spencer.