To paraphrase, Manchester United fans may wish to register a complaint. The Red Knights’ bid that fans bought into not six months ago is dead. Passed on, no more, ceased to be and gone to meet its maker. For the 150,000 fans who signed up to MUST and waved green and gold protest scarves this bid is bereft of life. Rest in peace!
At least that’s what the BBC’s Business Editor Robert Peston would have us believe, blogging today about the investors who are unwilling to put money into a Red Knights bid this summer. Peston’s story, following so quickly on from Daniel Taylor’s exposé in the Guardian last week of machinations within the consortium, is a body blow for those who wish to see the Glazers depart Old Trafford this summer.
Former stockbroker and Financial Times correspondent, Peston has strong links into the investment community but his failure to quote a source is telling. The wider investment community may well see no value in a bid for United, which is massively over-leveraged at a time when the financial sector barely dares to raise its collective head over the parapet. The Knights’ bis was never purely about economics.
Peston’s failure, much like that of Taylor, is the frustrating anonymity of sources. While the Guardian man claims the word of senior Knights who chose to break rank, Peston’s highly ambiguous piece adds little clarity to an increasingly murky picture.
Interesting then that Peston’s BBC colleague, newly appointed Sport’s editor David Bond, added to the debate today, having been briefed by the Glazers’ commercial team this week. Bond argues, with a hugely embarrassing misunderstanding of the facts, that the Glazer family is more interested in building a team than paying off Payment in Kind (PiK) debts this summer.
It’s an argument that falls down on even the most superficial of analysis. After all if the Glazer family had no wish to pay down the PiK debt then the January bond issue had the effect of adding to the club’s interest bill and little else, while the PiK debt balloons to more than £600 million by 2017.
In truth while the Glazers will take large amounts of cash out of club funds this summer it will probably take place after the quarterly accounts are published on 28 May. It makes little sense for the Glazers to tacitly admit there will be no investment in the playing squad this summer before the 13 June season ticket renewal deadline.
If Bond is right, then the Glazer family will surely release millions for investment in a leading player prior to the World Cup’s opening match on 11 June. Few with even the most basic financial understanding believe the BBC man.
Even if the Knights’ bid is permanently dead – the group itself has not yet publicly admitted defeat – the Glazers have reacted to events on the ground by freezing season ticket prices after five years of huge rises. It cost the family just £1 million for the significant media publicity.
Indeed, the phony PR war between MUST and the Glazers has taken a turn in the past few weeks with first the ubiquitous ‘Glazer family spokesperson’ and now the club’s chief of staff regularly briefing journalists against the Knights. PR 101 – create fear, uncertainty and doubt.
With a huge vacuum created by the Knights’ inability to communicate the media have lapped it up.
Meanwhile, Sir Alex Ferguson continues repeat the same tired line that there is no value in the transfer market while competitors seek to bolster their playing staff. That’s one parrot which remains alive at least.