Financier Keith Harris believes that Manchester United fans should turn to boycott if they want to rid the club of the Glazer family. Harris, who claims to have put together a package to buy the club with a series of “Red Knight” investors, says that the green and gold protest is merely symbolic and won’t force the American owners to sell the club.
Harris, well known in the football community for brokering club buyouts, is yet to name the investors willing to buy into the club should it become available. Nor is there any sign that the Glazer family is seeking to sell after the 2005 £790 million acquisition.
Indeed, the £504 million bond issued by the club recently ensures that there is no short-term pressure on United’s finances, even if huge amounts of money will leave the club in interest, debt repayment and dividends over the next seven years.
It is the Americans’ financial mismanagement of the club that has led to renewed protests from the United faithful in recent weeks, with swathes of green and gold scarves seen at Old Trafford on matchdays.
One mooted protest includes turning up late for the upcoming Champions League fixture against AC Milan. But Harris claims that the only way to force the Glazer family from the club is to hit the bottom line by refusing to buy match tickets or merchandise.
“Turning up to games 10 minutes late and things like that just doesn’t do the job,” said Harris .
“The green and gold protest is fabulous, a symbolic and significant message to the owners. It is like the white handkerchiefs in Spain. But that won’t force the Glazers to sell to us.
“However, if enough people – and I am talking about thousands – stop turning up to matches and do not renew their tickets, then that does it. The supporters have to hurt the Glazers in their pockets.
“They have to be prepared to take the pain of not watching their club in order to achieve a long-term gain. Supporters have to be galvanised to say, ‘We will not come. We will not buy programmes and merchandise’.”
More than 30,000 fans have relinquished season tickets since the 2005 takeover, although the majority have subsequently been bought by other supporters. And while Old Trafford attendances have dropped 0.6 per cent this season – with match tickets often available on general sale – the drop-off is unlikely to impact revenues significantly.
Boycott is also an emotive issue with fans, many of whom have no wish to stop watching the team. It’s the economics of price inelasticity that the Glazer family is – quite literally – banking on.
More realistic is a scenario whereby investors buy into the club at market price because the Glazer family is happy to take a profit on an asset they invested very little of their own personal fortune in. Harris believes he has put together the finances for the bid.
“I would not talk about this if I didn’t have full confidence in our ability to raise the money to do this,” Harris added, who must raise more than £1 billion to buy the club.
“I never talk publicly unless I have confidence. Getting the money together is the easy bit. But we can’t make an offer until the Glazers are placed in a position where they are forced to consider it.”
Herein lies the rub. Even with United leveraged to the point of very little maneuver only an organised boycott on a mass scale is likely to hurt the Glazer family significantly. Putting together that protest seems vastly more difficult than selling thousands of green and gold scarves.
9 thoughts on “Harris right but boycott unrealistic”
I do no agree that a boycott is unrealistic. Lots of fans like myself who went for 30 years are boycotting matches. The waiting list has now gone despite the success of the team and the feeling I get is that a lot more fans are now ready to take acction. The green/gold has united the the fans into a single movement and a call from MUST (52000 members) to take the protest outside the stadium and I can see 10,000 empty seats next season followed by a lot more the season after.
The attitude of it won’t happen is an excuse by the less committed to keep attending games.
You cannot fight a war without using your main weapon. Empty the stadium
I don’t disagree – but MUST or its previous incarnation have been around since the attempted takeover by Rupert Murdoch 12 years ago. There’s 52k members. Organising 76,000 people to stop attending… I don’t see how it’ll happen.
Lets hope everyone realises that Mr harris is not doing for MU but himself as yet again, he would get a large fee.
The backers that he is asking us to believe have the money(or how would they raise the funds?), are they MU supporters and what will they expect for the risk of using their money or giving guarantees for the money.
The alternative of a gang of faceless investors, is no better than what we already have, but at least we know of the owners, and lets compare with other teams, as we are clearly in a better finacial state than most
The team needs,expects and deserves our support, so let Mr Harris go on with his little game, until he will get bored and moves on.
The £500m bond needs to be paid back in seven years time (or before). Presumably the Glazers intend to sell the club at some point in the next seven years, because this is the only way they can pay it off. They will obviously try to time it to maximise their profit. But they are unlikely to want to sell now, unless they get a really big offer.
Not necessarily. The other way to pay it off would be to issue another bond. However SAF will likely be gone by then meaning Utd’s performance (on and off the pitch) will probably decline, and a successful bond issue will be far more difficult and subject to a higher interest rate.
United are among the biggest clubs in the world the should be competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona for the best players.
Please do not compare United finances with Portmouth.
MUST has been around for about ten years at the start of the year membership 31,000. Six weeks later 52,000.
Something has changed and the fans are ready for action.
Anyone who thinks united are in a better financial state than most is either a fool or a glazer lackey. If the glazers stay, they will continue to hoover hundreds of millions out of the club and keep rescheduling the loans every few years. Do we really want to be in permanent debt, paying the equivalent of a galactico transfer fee to the banks every single summer? And having to sell to buy. The reason Smalling did not come in January was because the club cannot pay the 10 million until Vidic or Anderson is sold in June. Van der Saar will stay another year because the club cannot afford 10-15 million to buy Neuer or another top line keeper. The club has been taken over by parasites, until they have been forced out, all fans (sorry customers) can look forward to is ever rising prices and economical with the truth utterances from Gill, now doing very nicely thank you with 1.8 million a year for parroting the glazer line.
This guy Harris is completely correct and will get the club back to being either a PLC or with private owners who respect the tradition and fan culture of United….I am hoping that the evntual objective is to sell the shares in small lots to individual United fans therefore making United the first UK fan owned football clude of any magnitude.
I smell a rat – this Harris character is trying to manipulate the fans with a view to lining his own pockets – notice how carefully controlled his public statements are – with fans having no opportunity to question him or present a rebuttal?
I would have thought that after the events of the last 2 years people would be more switched-on when a notorious moneyman asks them all to make a “sacrifice”. I don’t believe this guy would be any better than Glazer – and who are the mysterious “investors” who apparently don’t want any personal publicity for themselves?
If Harris is serious about a takeover then let him make a bid – let’s see if “getting the money is the easy bit” – really? – I don’t think so – If United is worth £1.3 billion and is to be owned on an equal basis by the investing fans and let’s say in the middle of the worst recession in 90 years each fan can afford to put up £1,000 then that requires 1.3 million investors – the cost of administration alone would bankrupt the club – can you imagine if they all wanted to come to the AGM – you couldn’t even fit them all into Old Trafford!
It would be out-of-the-frying-pan and into-the-fire for the fans, most of whom would probably lose their money. For what it’s worth, I think the most likely buyer for United will come from Asia – once the Glazers have amassed £1 billion in equity in the club. Tread carefully – these are dangerous times!