Scandinavian Supporters' Club celebrate 40 years
Manchester United Supporters' Club Scandinavia celebrates its 40th anniversary on 15 February 2021. This is the remarkable story of how our biggest Supporters' Club outside of the UK built itself from the ground.
In 1981, United fans Per Harald Larsen and Hans Lokoy decided to start a Scandinavian Supporters Club for Manchester United, and on 15 February that year, the idea was put into realty.
Little did they know that 40 years later it would be the biggest official Supporters' Club outside the UK. It currently holds 507 season tickets at Old Trafford, produces a magazine eight times a year, runs a website with all the latest news surrounding the club as well as operating a shop, both online and in Bergen, where you can buy United merchandise.
As of February 2021, there are 40.185 members of Manchester United Supporters' Club Scandinavia. To put it into perspective, that means you can fill the capacity of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge with Scandinavian Reds.
Bernt Hjornevik, the current CEO of Manchester United Supporters' Club Scandinavia, is proud of what has been built over the years and mention several factors in determining its success.
"The Supporters' Clubs' goldmine is the access to Old Trafford with our season tickets," the Norwegian says.
"That is something we will never change. We have a goal of being, and stay being, the safest alternative for Scandinavians who want to see matches at the Theatre of Dreams.
"Then, in accordance with the numbers, we have developed. Our website have journalists operating almost 24/7 who delve deep into the club and write stories we have had good feedback on. In addition, we have the shop where supporters can get the latest effects. We have developed as the numbers went up and it has been evident that a membership with us is valuable as a Scandinavian United supporter."
I recent years, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had a great influence, both on United’s first team, and the Scandinavian branch. He took the interim role as manager on 19 December 2018, and Hjornevik remembers that special Christmas vividly.
"Solskjaer has a special position in Norway. Norwegians want him to do well. When he took over it was crazy. On Christmas Eve we sent out information about memberships and it was a month where we had over 100 new members per day. It was extreme numbers," he says.
However, as with everything, the Supporters' Club had to start somewhere. During the first years in the early 1980s, before Sir Alex Ferguson became United boss, numbers were low. The Club was run on a voluntary basis and around 50-100 joined each year. The Norwegian duo of Larsen and Lokoy simply noted down memberships on a piece of paper. In fact, they even forgot to write down their own names initially and therefore have membership numbers 0 and -1.
Our Scandinavian playersGallery
Remind yourself of some of the notable Reds past and present who hail from Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
Then the 1990s came and, in correlation with Sir Alex’s side’s dominance, numbers went through the roof for the Scandinavian branch. During the Treble season, the members tally was over 34, 000.
"The upwards shift in numbers came thanks to United having a lot of Scandinavian players and success during the ’90’s," Hjornevik explains.
"With the Treble season and all the success after the other, a lot of attention from United fans turned to the Scandinavian Supporters' Club. In the Treble season, there were normally two or three Scandinavians starting every match. As well, people started to travel more and the Club just grew and grew."
In the 1999 Champions League final, one of the biggest nights in the club’s history, Swede Jesper Blomquist, Danish shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel and Norwegian defender Ronny Johnsen started. Of course, the latter’s countryman came on to score the famous winner.
Trophies followed in seasons to come and so did the number of members for our Scandinavian Supporters' Club. Since 2007, the annual number of official members has never been below 40,000.
"When United have success, our job is easier," Hjornevik says. "The more members we get, the more we can provide and the more our members will get in return. It has paid off for members to be loyal to the Supporters' Club."
Normally, MUSCS organise trips to Manchester for every home match. During a weekend, there are typically one to two events in addition to the matchday, with one being a kick-off activity in the Red Cafe at Old Trafford, with Q&As with ex-players.
"We are always so greatly welcomed at Old Trafford and work closely with the ticket office. They can see we are a special bunch," laughs Hjornevik.
Along with the rest of the world, the Supporters Club has had to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Not being able to travel to Manchester for games is a massive blow for the proud Reds, but the work never stops. The Supporters' Club pride themselves on having loyal members and their numbers remain high.
"We have lost some members as some are members just to be able to travel with us. We understand that they don’t want to pay for a service they cannot have for a while. Then again, we had a look just now and 93-94 per cent renewed their memberships, even though COVID is on. That just goes to show the loyalty Scandinavian Reds possess."
Originally, the Supporters club planned to mark the 40th anniversary with a special event, but the plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic. In 2006, Sir Alex Ferguson was a guest of honour for the 25th anniversary. How it will be celebrated has not decided yet, but Hjornevik concludes that one thing is certain: "We cannot wait to be back at Old Trafford again."
This article originally featured in the March 2021 edition of Inside United.
Since this article was written for the magazine, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Victor Lindelof have congratulated the Club on reaching four decades in existence.
Ole: “Congratulations to everyone in our Scandinavian Supporters’ Club on your 40th anniversary. It’s a great achievement to have built the biggest supporters’ club in the world over that time. As a Norwegian, I’m proud of the special relationship between Manchester United and Scandinavia and we really appreciate the fantastic support we get from the region. We miss seeing you at Old Trafford, and we can’t wait to welcome you back as soon as it’s possible.”
Victor: “I’d like to wish a Happy 40th birthday to everyone in the Scandinavian Supporters’ Club. We know how much passion and commitment you put into supporting the team and all the players really value it.”