March 2001 saw the founding of the Carlisle and Cumbria United Independent Supporters' Society Limited (or CCUIST, for short). That was the date on which founder members Kate Rowley, Alan Steel, Brian Hall and John Wilson signed the Trust's model rules and brought into being the entity that was eventually to become known as The United Trust.
In May 2001, a public meeting at The Sands Centre in Carlisle attended by over 1,000 United fans formally launched the Trust and aimed to both remove Michael Knighton as owner at the same time as raise funds to buy a permanent shareholding for supporters.
In its first year, CCUIST led the opposition to Michael Knighton, protesting against his increasingly unpopular ownership regime, which had seen an aborted attempt to sell shares to an unemployed former curryhouse waiter Stephen Brown as well as mysterious Gibraltar based business, MAMCARR.
Crowd at launch of CCUIST in May 2001.
2002-2003: John Courtenay takeover
CCUIST organised protest marches in the 2001-02 season as Knighton clung on despite a slump in attendances. The biggest protest of all was before, during and after the home fixture against Plymouth Argyle, which followed the controversial sacking of manager Roddy Collins.
Eventually in May 2002 the club were placed into administration over non-payment of tax bills. Irish businessman John Courtenay managed to cut a deal in July to buy out Knighton. Talks commenced between Courtenay and the Trust who had already amassed close to £100,000 from its membership. Volunteers from the Trust sell tickets on match days from portakabins around the ground. This arrangement remains in place until 2005.
The Trust and Courtenay reached agreement over the purchase of up to 49% of the club's holding company. The Trust were able to buy shares in three separate blocks of 20%, 20% and 9% with deadlines for payments totalling £800,000. A cheque for the first £100,000 was handed over at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium prior to the LDV Vans Trophy Final. The Trust took a 20% share in the club's holding company.
Alan Steel is elected as the first fans' representative on the Board of Directors. The Trust also has a powerful veto on any new owner as part of the agreement.
Further moves to raise funds for the signing of loan players foundered towards the end of 2003 as the club once again experienced financial difficulties.
Protest against Michael Knighton, 2002.
2004-2006: Brooks Mileson record donation and Trust v Story share dispute
In early 2004 local businessman Fred Story attemped to buy the club from Courtenay but the deal fell through. A plan was then formulated for new investors to acquire shares from the first option belonging to the Trust in the 2003 option agreement. Trust members voted in April 2004 to give the board the right to relinquish this option and acquire a further 5.1% stake, taking the stake in CUFC Holdings to 25.1%. Kate Rowley replaced Alan Steel who resigned as fans' representative on the club's board.
In the summer of 2004 CCUIST decided to change its trading name to The United Trust. A new logo was also introduced. Members were asked to donate £350 each to the proposed new target of £350,000 for the share fund. The 2003 option agreement however remained in place as an amended version failed to materialise.
In July 2004 Story concluded a deal to buy the club from Courtenay. The Trust launched the 'Blues Lotto' which replaced the Super 7 lottery and is eventually handed over to the club. Proposals for a 'Big Match' scheme whereby new owner Story would put £1 into the club for every £1 raised by the Trust to buy shares fell apart so the Trust approached Gretna FC owner and philanthropist Brooks Mileson for help. Mileson agreed to put in £25,000 and match every ongoing donation £1 for £1. Eventually in November 2004 he offered to make a £600,000 donation to enable the first two share options (totalling 40%) to be completed. This remains a record donation to a supporters' trust in the UK.
Relations soured between Story and the Trust with this development. Story claimed the 2003 agreement was 'fundamentally flawed', allowing the Trust's stake to be diluted, and so began a near two-year dispute between the two parties. Talks were held in January and June of 2005 to find a breakthrough but resulted in stalemate. The Trust acquired a temporary injunction that prevented Story from selling his shareholding and requiring him to comply with the 2003 agreement. An interim hearing at The High Court in London in November 2005 saw judge Sir Donald Rattee uphold this injunction.
The Trust initiated new talks that eventually took place in London in May 2006. The two parties agreed an end to the dispute with the Trust agreeing to acquire 25.4% of the Holding company for a total outlay of £800,000. Norman Steel appointed as part of this agreement to be Trust representative on the board. A loan of £60,000 was taken out at the end of 2006 to complete the final purchase of shares.
Brooks Mileson hands over cheque for £600k, 2005.
2007-2010: Trust prevent giveaway of land owned by CUFC
Another legal wrangle followed over 110 acres of land owned by the club near Stony Holme. This land had been offered to John Courtenay by Story as part of their negotiations over the sale of the club in 2004. The Trust opposed this and initiated moves to value the land and block attempts by the club to give it away.
A legal move to stop a Special General Meeting of the football club in May 2007 failed at the 11th hour, and a vote was passed to allow the land to be given away. However by early 2008 the club had accepted in principle that it should be sold on the open market. In May 2008 an agreement was reached and a legally-binding order made, compelling the club to sell it at proper market value. The Trust appealed against the initial awarding of costs and were later successful in enforcing Story to pay all his costs and those of the club.
The land was finally sold at auction to a local farmer in December 2010 for a sum of £145,000. Agent Knight Frank agreed to waive its fees to the club.
Legal moves helped protect land asset.
2011-present: Trust metamorphosis as CUOSC
After several years of decline in membership numbers, the Trust initiate moves to improve its public image and increase membership size. An open meeting held in February 2013 is the first stage in this process.
The Trust get a regular spot in the match programme for the first time since 2005. In March 2015, Trust members vote to support the board's plan to dilute its shareholding, as part of the Andrew Lapping investment proposals. Unfortunately, this investment is scrapped in the summer as allegations are aired in the media. In July 2015, The Trust announces it is to change its trading name to Carlisle United Official Supporters' Club or CUOSC, for short.
Carlisle United Official Supporters' Club (CUOSC)
Tel: 07999 73 73 90
IPS Reg No: 29220R
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