On the 52nd anniversary of the Munich air crash Manchester United’s owners failed to turn up at Old Trafford, choosing instead to employ rough tactics on protesting supporters as the anti-Glazer revolution spreads. Not for the first time Stewards ripped banners from the Stretford End and supporters wearing the colours of protest were barred entry to executive areas.
The self-styled ‘Theatre of Dreams’ is rapidly becoming a sea of green and gold as the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) distributed 70,000 fliers and additional scarves before the Old Trafford tie with Portsmouth on Saturday.
With MUST membership now topping 45,000 the tipping point in this revolution has come. Not this time will supporters’ protests fade into apathy.
It’s not a fact that the club’s management has yet accepted with Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill attempting to head off the protests at the path by erroneously calling on fans to “support the club” in recent weeks. Gill would say that, his remuneration has increased by 60 per cent in two years to more than £1.8 million, while squeezing the fans for ever more in ticket prices.
Inside the stadium a chorus of “we want Glazer out” and “love United, hate Glazer” dominated for the duration, save the minute’s silence respectfully held prior to kick off. And at the Stretford End supporters unfurled another huge ‘Glazer Out, LUHG’ banner before stewards forcibly removed both the statement and protester.
Anecdotal evidence also points to fans being forced to remove green and gold scarves before entering ‘box’ areas and stewards bent on silencing Glazers’ critics in the stands.
“Predictably, once again a club steward was caught by the media telling a supporter to put down his Green and Gold club colours. But again the act backfired as Radio 5 Live’s presenter conveyed the act to tens of millions of fans listening around the world,” reports the excellent United blog, A Kick in the Grass.
It’s a shame then that the BBC gave a voice to Gill’s lies on its Football Focus programme last weekend, while overtly editing any of the green and gold protest out of its Match of the Day highlights on Saturday night.
But there is a growing feeling that the current wave of protests is merely the start of a war that leads to the Glazer family’s demise as club owners. After all, if the family is unwilling to face supporters in Manchester, then they surely will feel the financial pinch if plans for a widespread season ticket boycott come to fruition.
“It is only now, after the true state was laid bare in the prospectus to raise the £500m bond, that the fans have taken the veil from their eyes,” Andy Walsh, chairmen of red rebel club FC United of Manchester told the Daily Mail.
“We’ve had many people apologising to us. There is a plan to step up the campaign and hitting the Glazers in the pocket as the next phase.
“The green and gold campaign has focused people’s attention but there is an understanding it won’t work on its own. A boycott will hit the Glazers because their business plan relied on them cranking up ticket prices and extracting more cash from supporters.”
Boycott, of course, is an emotive subject; perhaps the greatest sacrifice a supporter can make. But with the financial pinch hitting home hard the club has already lost a net 65,000 season ticket holders in the past year. Further ticket rises are likely when the club announces prices for the 2010/2011 season in the coming weeks.
Even should the club “placate the fans” as one national newspapers suggested last week, there is a growing realisation that the only way supporters can force a change of ownership in the medium term is to undermine the Glazer family’s business model.