David Gill has launched another scathing attack on Manchester United’s green and gold protest campaign, dismissing the scarf wearing supporters as a minority while predicting its demise. Speaking to the Independent newspaper, Gill argues that fans do not understand the protest and are never happy despite success.
Gill’s interview comes as United’s commercial department warns executive seat holders not to delay renewing, with the deadline looming on 31 May. Published today, it is not the first time United’s chief has hit out at the green and gold campaign but the strength of the Surrey-born ceo’s attack may take supporters by surprise.
“I think that [the green and gold] minority will go away. I see people from Asia walking out of the megastore with a red and white scarf on and they just assume they [green and gold] are official scarves and go and buy one,” Gill told the Independent, presumably from the safety of his Old Trafford office and not the forecourt.
“I think there is an element of that. A lot of people understand what it means but a lot of them don’t.”
Gill’s tactic to dismiss the protests, claim the club’s finances are sound and suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson has money to spend in the transfer market is not new. Indeed, the ceo’s interview comes a week after chief of staff Edward Woodward invited leading national journalists to meet at United’s commercial offices in Pall Mall, London.
“They are not going to change their opinion even if we win three Champions League titles in a row,” adds Gill of the 160,000 fans that have joined the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) this season.
“We couldn’t have been much more successful in the last three years: we won the league, we were Champions League winners and runners-up and we won the Carling Cup, but they are never going to be happy.”
United finished second to Chelsea this season, while losing in the Champions League quarter-finals – for which Gill took a public dressing down by his American paymasters – and third division Leeds United dumped the reds out of the FA Cup.
With the season ticket and executive renewal deadline in the next fortnight, box holders yesterday received a letter boasting of a significant hospitality waiting list. Stating that the letter “is a warning not a threat” United’s Head of Client Relations claims that hospitality facilities “will be released to the waiting list on 1 June.”
Aside from the unfortunately threatening tone, it is odd that the bond prospectus released in January notes significant unoccupied executive facilities at Old Trafford last season, with the worldwide recession hitting the club hard.
“For the 2009/10 season, reduced demand for executive and box seats has resulted in approximately 16% of those facilities (by value) remaining unsold as at 30 September 2009, compared with just over 12% unsold at the same stage in the 2008/09 season,” the club told potential investors.
This comes as the club released its Q3 financial results through Manchester United Finance plc, showing cash reserves of more than £95 million on a sharp increase in year-on-year Champions League media revenues.
While many feared the Glazer family would exercise its option to pay down Payment in Kind (PiK) debt most analysts now expect this to come after the end of the financial year on 30 June, meaning the results will not be released until August 2010. Well after the 13 June season ticket renewal deadline.
The results showed year-on-year gross debt down at £520.9 million, although the quarter-on-quarter debt was up, reflecting conversion of bank to bond debt. This does not include the PiK debt, which totals more than £200 million and will be paid down from club cash reserves.
The results also coincide with another reiteration in the Glazers’ stance that the club is not for sale.
“The Board notes recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United. The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers,” said a club statement.
With United’s effective debt now at more than £720 million supporters can only hope the family changes its mind, perhaps by the time the BBC’s Panorama programme on the club’s spiralling debt goes live on 7 June.
Otherwise fans may need to wait for UEFA’s financial fair play regulations to kick in for the 2015-16 season, which include the provision to exclude from competition any club with net debt greater than revenues. Net debt is gross minus liquid assets, including cash.
United’s net debt is more than £425 million with revenues at £278 million for the last reported full financial year.