CUOSC History

CUOSC has opened an exciting new chapter in its history. As we move into 2024 we will be working with United’s new owners to build a football club we can all be proud of.

American businessman Tom Piatak and his family have taken control and have made it clear they will embrace and involve supporters as they try to move the Blues into the 21st century.

To allow their takeover to go through CUOSC agreed to reduce our shareholding from 25.4% to 10%.

However, by continuing to grow our membership, we believe, we can play a big part in the club’s future.

CUOSC has been around for 22 years – and we want to be around for another 22 and longer.

That is why we are laying new foundations which we hope will make the organisation stronger than ever. We are determined to become more relevant and more representative of fans.

But how did it all begin?

Younger fans may not be aware of the history.

Infamous chairman Michael Knighton was at the root of it all. Knighton took over the Blues in 1992 promising the club would be in the Premier League in 10 years.

After early success things started to go wrong, the club went into decline and he became increasingly unpopular with fans fed up of the shenanigans behind the scenes.

In March 2001 four Blues fans met in a pub outside Carlisle. They didn’t know each other, but they all had a common goal – to get an organisation together to protest against Knighton’s ownership and to ultimately buy a share of their club.

They were: Kate Rowley a former police officer who was working for the Police Federation; John Wilson a Carlisle-based lawyer; Alan Steel a long-time supporter living in South Wales and Brian Hall who had been involved with the supporters’ club and had recently set up the Cumbrians Independent Supporters’ Association (CISA).

They signed an initial constitution, following guidelines from Supporters Direct – a government-backed initiative that had begun the previous year – and came up with the name Carlisle and Cumbria United Independent Supporters Trust (CCUIST).

There was widespread support and on May 5, 2001 almost 2000 people attended a meeting in the Sands centre and the supporters’ trust was born.

Within a few months they had more than 1000 members and a significant financial war chest.

Knighton came under more pressure to sell. Then in May 2002 the club went into administration. Fans vowed to boycott United the following season. Season ticket sales dried up – only seven had been sold by late July – and Knighton finally agree to move on.

Irish businessman John Courtenay came to the rescue and was eager to work with supporters.

In early 2003 he signed an historic agreement with CCUIST allowing fans to own up to 40% of the club’s Holdings Company.

It would be nice to say things have run smoothly ever since. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Courtenay was succeeded by local builder Fred Story and long running legal wrangles meant it wasn’t until 2006 that CCUIST, who had by now changed their name to the United Trust, eventually acquired a 25.4% stake in the club.

The total cost to the Trust was just under £800,000. The money was raised thanks largely to a £600,000 donation from insurance magnate and Gretna FC owner Brooks Mileson.

The trust was also grateful to a number of individuals who helped with the legal fees and, particularly, long-standing Trust stalwart Norman Steel, whose loan enabled the deal to be completed.

The stake meant the United Trust became a significant shareholder with power to block special resolutions and with the right to veto major new share issues.

In 2008 Story relinquished the ownership and just over a year later Andrew Jenkins, a board member since the 1950s, once again became the largest shareholder – just as he was before Knighton arrived on the scene.

The board’s relationship with the Trust remained frosty, to say the least. But over time it began to thaw and in 2015 the Trust underwent internal reform and changed its name to Carlisle United Official Supporters Club (CUOSC).

We were given representation on both the club’s Holdings Board and the 1921 Operational board but we could easily be outvoted.

It also soon became clear the United’s financial position was unsustainable.

As the club looked for new investment there were a number of failed takeover attempts before the owners gratefully accepted a loan facility from retail company Edinburgh Woollen Mill. It was believed that EWM’s involvement might lead to a change of control at Brunton Park.

In 2019 CUOSC joined confidential talks to bring this about. Although a deal was eventually agreed, by the end of the year it became clear that the assurances required by the EFL were not acceptable to EWM.

Still working under a confidentiality agreement attempts were made to reach a revised arrangement.

CUOSC were once again asked to dilute our shareholding but this time there would have been no change of control at the club. This wasn’t acceptable to our members or the general fan base and we couldn’t support such an arrangement.

However, we did stay in negotiations until the Covid pandemic and EWM going into administration meant there was no hope of finding a solution.

This left United owing EWM around £2.4million. The debt was novated to Purepay Retail and became a major stumbling block to further hopes of a takeover.

That was until the Piatak family came along.

Over the last 18 months there have been major changes to the CUOSC board which has left us with a young and energetic board that is ready to face the challenges ahead.