It’s a pertinent question after a week when supporters’ protests against the incumbent Glazer family reach a new zenith during Manchester United’s win over AC Milan on Wednesday night. With two giant anti-Glazer banners hanging from the second tier and a sea of green and gold there’s no doubt fans want change. The question is: what kind?
The Glazer family’s over-leveraged, debt-fueled business model is designed solely for their financial benefit, with the recent bond issue in place to ensure that the owners can remove even more money from club coffers over the next seven years. Such is clear despite managing director David Gill’s laughable assertion on Thursday that the Americans have been good for the club.
In the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) and the so-called Red Knights there is hope that not only will United be in a stronger financial position but fans will get a real say in the future of the club. If the organisations can mount a bid that is. MUST, committed to fan-ownership, will likely call on supporters to contribute financially to any future bid.
Over the course of United’s history the club has morphed from Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway F.C, the workers’ union which formed the club in 1878, to a privately held business, through public flotation in 1990, to the current model.
So what models are there in football and what could happen at United?
The Abu Dhabi Royal Family’s ownership of Manchester City has brought a new model to the football community where the almost limitless wealth of a sovereign nation is ploughed into the club. In addition to buying the club, paying off debt and investing hundreds of millions in player acquisition, City’s owners last week confirmed a £1 billion scheme to redevelop the area surrounding Eastlands.
Unless a mystery Middle East based billionaire family steps forward with an offer too good to refuse then this is a very unlikely scenario at Old Trafford
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich changed the face of English football when he bought Chelsea in June 2003. The London club, which lived well beyond its means under Ken Bates’ stewardship, was withing days of going bust according to some reports. Abramovich’s passion may have cooled but the Russian has still lavished around £400 million on the loss-making club to date.
Other single-owner models are commonplace in football, if not always the chairman’s fantasyleague-style plaything. Aston Villa’s Randy Learner and Sunderland’s Ellis Short are single shareholder chairmen in the Premier League.
Historically, the local businessman-turned-chairman was a common model in football. Indeed, United remained independently owned for more than 100 years before floatation with Martin Edwards the last in a line of local chairmen.
Public Limited Company
When United floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1990 the club followed Tottenham Hotspur as only the second club to do so in England. The Initial Public Offering (IPO) raised around £12 million, geared towards developing the Stretford End, although the board regularly paid shareholders dividends each season through the 14 year period as a PLC.
The spectre of IPO remains though with one possible exit strategy for the Glazer family a re-floatation of the club when the bond issue matures in 2017.
Much is made of Barcelona’s democratic system, where each of the 160,000 members vote in elections to appoint a president and board of directors who in turn run the club on the fans’ behalf. For many United supporters that is the ideal scenario, if financially unrealistic given the immense level of debt on the club’s books.
A similar model exists at Real Madrid, while in Germany legislation ensures that fans own at least 51 per cent of all clubs. The model ensures that boards run clubs not only with supporters’ interests at heart but that fans have a genuine democratic say in their club’s direction.
However, at Madrid and Barcelona an arms-race develops during election periods, with candidates promising lavish signings to garner more member votes. The result is that the Spanish giants has each run up debts of hundreds of millions of Euros.
An even more extreme version of the democratic model is in place at Ebbsfleet United, bought by the website myfootballclub.co.uk last year. Members of the club now vote on a variety of issues, including player transfers.
More realistically perhaps, the Red Knights have promised that a ‘blocking stake’ of 25.1 per cent of shares will be held by fans as a minimum should the group stage a successful coup at the club. The shareholding is crucial to blocking any future flotation or sale of the club.
10 thoughts on “What kind of owners do we want?”
Spot on. This campaign is anti US, anti Semitic, idiotic rubbish that ignores United”s success despite the Glazers and also ignores the fact that the fans have been unhappy with the ownership for years. Did they like the family? Did they like the PLC?
The fans are fools who should be ignored! Sod off, green and gold; look at what is happening on the pitch and stop trying to spoil the game for the rest of us.
This is a message from a genuine, life long United supporter, not some politically motivated twat from MUST or IMUSA. Do they remember the inglorious role they played in blocking the BSkyB acquisition of United, that would not only have prevented the Glazer aquisition,but also made us the all-time richest club ever, without the need for oligarchs or sheiks?
Please, you idiots, go back into your horrid little holes, wherever they may be, and let Glory, Glory, Glory, go on, on oN, ON!
Charges of racism are very serious and should backed up with evidence. I’ve seen none but if anybody can show that those involved with MUST, IMUSA or the Red Knights have been anti-American or anti-semetic provide the facts here and they’ll be published.
I’ve been involved with this campaign in one way or another for five years and I’m confident that the protest is not about nationality or religion, it’s about debt and the Glazer family’s business model. It’s a legitimate protest born of frustration with the Glazers ownership of Manchester United.
It’s a charge that makes little sense to me. The club has a long and very proud inclusive history. That’s reflected in the protest’s leaders – both Americans and those of the Jewish faith are are represented on MUST’s committee for example.
Well said, Ed.
If this campaign is anti US and anti Semitic, I’ll show my backside in the window of the Ford showroom on Busby Way!
Unless we find someone with enough money to remove the shadow of the debts, i think we should concentrate on supportign the team on the pitch and stop trying to kick the people who whether we like it or not own the club!
It is all nice and romantic to talk about debts and the glazers taking money and hope for a “supporter” owned club but the harsh reality is we do not have any options ( I am not so sure the Red knights are going to just donate money) and until we do have viable options we should shut up and stand behind the club. We have actually been doing okay after they have come in and I know the future looks scary but this whole “movement” looks like more like a marketing campaign for the Red Knights and MUST.
Not that I am against it, but to go to a gun fight without guns is a little silly!
What is this guy on about anti-US, anti-semitic! When did this happen. Your comments about mortgages are laughable, are you sure it’s not Gill? Why do people continue to defend the indefensible.
Yes i agree with you Ray i cannot believe some fools who tends to be Manchester United Fans are still protesting so called anti Glazer despite the team success an the pitch i don’t know wat they want again….the debt is not affecting the team and they are doing well and i think the owners are doing something to settle the debt….You shut down and let the glory Continues ….United Forever
Perhaps a better idea would be to get some sort of dialogue with the Glazers going where an exit strategy is discussed. If the Glazers agreed to set up a fan ownership type model in their exit strategy their would be no need for the Red Knights…?
shall we invent a song for berbatov?
As much as any city in England, Manchester is a melting pot that has been home to immigrants of all ethnicity for the past couple of hundred years. And a fervent opponent of slavery despite the fact that the city was built on cotton trading. As a native Mancunian I am disgusted that anyone has the temerity to allege that the anti Glazer campaign has anything to do with racism, xenophobia or anti semitism.
Anyone who alleges this knows NOTHING about Manchester or its people. At best this is stupidity and ignorance at worst a disgusting smear. Provide evidence, or crawl back into your disgusting hole yourself.