In a move that will dismay, even enrage, fans of Leeds United, Newcastle United and other famous old football clubs throughout the English leagues – as well as leagues elsewhere – Manchester United FC, known across the globe and in Paignton as the legendary “Pride of Devon“, have formally announced their intention to patent the word “United” for their own sole and exclusive use.
The former Newton Heath have long been offended that other clubs cheekily presume to use a suffix which they feel is their own exclusive province. Attempts on the part of the “other” Uniteds to conciliate have always fallen on stony ground and deaf ears; particularly when negotiations have included the undeniable fact that “United” in a football context signifies a club with the sole occupancy of its catchment area – as is the case with Newcastle, Leeds United, Carlisle and even Torquay – all areas which are served by just one professional club. Despite the fact that this means they’re actually, a fake United, the Man U position has always been airily to contend that it simply “doesn’t matter” and that they remain the only United anyone’s bothered about.
Such a rarefied level of auto-delusion so impressed a Regius Professor of Applied Psychology at Oxford University, that he decided to make the Salford-based club the subject of a thesis on what he described as “Walter Mitty Syndrome” – scientifically, an elevated stratum of specious self-deception. Sadly, after a full ten months work and within sight of a definitive conclusion, the good Professor succumbed to exhaustion from a chronic case of “laughing his poor, aching cods off at those arrogant idiots”.
Now the Pride of Devon have decided to go to law, and will call as witnesses representatives of the print and broadcast media, who have long followed a tacitly-agreed convention of referring to Man U simply as “United”. Strange as it may seem, this could lead to success in Court if the club can establish that the nomenclature has become solely theirs by the ancient principle of “custom and practice“. Another possible outcome is that an unbiased Judge (if such can be found) will take one look at the provenance of such evidence, and chuck the whole matter out of Court under the equally venerable statute of Nemo dictum stercus in Curia.
The Leeds United fan site WACCOE has gone into virtual meltdown at what they see as potentially a scandalously unfair development. Diverted for almost the whole of the last twenty-four hours from their usual preoccupations of reassuring each other as to how cool they all are, avidly discussing their fave sweeties (Snickers or Smarties??) – or discussing whether the best way to get to kiss a girl is by use of drugs or a blindfold, the “United” controversy has had many of the site’s users distraught – in copious floods of tears. Arguments at near-tantrum level have raged back and forth, with most proclaiming repeatedly that “you can’t patent a word. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!” before dissolving into tragic sobs and wanting their mums. Other Leeds United fan-sites, catering for a distinctly more adult and mature user group than the broadly juvenile WACCOE, have by contrast reported a distinctly subdued reaction, with members either “not being bovvered”, or preferring to talk about Jeremy Clarkson and how crap Chelsea were last night.
The outcome of the legal proceedings is not likely to be known for some considerable time. If successful, however, it is likely that Man U would wish to adopt the word “United” as their new registered name, dispensing with the increasingly irrelevant “Manchester” prefix. There is even talk of the club relocating to the south of England to be nearer to the bulk of their fanbase. One possible wrinkle there is that Manchester City have expressed the intention, should they be left as the sole Mancunian football club in the area, of restyling themselves as “Manchester United“. Such a move would require the approval of the FA, UEFA, FIFA, Sky TV and the Gallagher brothers out of Oasis.
The average I.Q. on WACCOE is 35 at age 14.