Glazers have no intentions to sell Man United and plan to increase value to $10bn
Club says claims that a member of staff allowed fans enter the ground are untrue
Fans holds up a banner as they protest against the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. Photo: Barrington Coombs/PA Wire
The Glazers have no plans to sell Manchester United, with the owners long-term vision being to grow the club’s value from its current £3.05bn (€3.5bn) to $10bn (€8.2bn).
The future of United under the American family is the focus of renewed scrutiny after Sunday’s protest against their ownership which caused the match with Liverpool to be postponed after some individuals entered Old Trafford.
The Glazers’ joining of the now defunct European Super League last month heightened unrest at their 16-year proprietorship but they remain committed to the club and have a belief its current valuation can be doubled at least.
How the pandemic will affect United’s ability to grow is unclear but the proposed ESL membership was a move to enhance finances and the brand’s worth. Since Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, replaced David Gill in 2013 as the Glazers most powerful employee at the club he has been responsible for opening lucrative revenue streams and turning United into a global brand with the reach of a multinational corporation. They are regularly ranked in the top 10 most valuable clubs, with Real Madrid and Barcelona the other football teams breaking into a list dominated by American sport franchises.
In the wake of the protest United will review security arrangements and consider banning fans responsible for criminality, with the club denying a gate was opened by a staff member to allow entry to the stadium.
The hierarchy is assessing how a gathering intended to be peaceful unfolded. Some of those who gained entry caused criminal damage, and unrest in the Munich Tunnel caused injuries to two police officers, one of whom required hospital treatment. Although those who stood on the pitch will not necessarily face sanction from United any individual who committed illegality will.
“Reports in mainstream and social media that protesters were able to access the stadium and pitch via a gate opened by club staff are completely incorrect,” United said. “After breaking through barriers and security on the forecourt, some protestors climbed the gates at the end of the Munich tunnel, then forced access to a side door in the stand, before opening an external door that let others through to the concourse area and the pitch. A second breach occurred when a protestor smashed the door of a disability access lift, enabling a group to enter the stand.
“The majority of our fans have and will condemn criminal damage, along with any violence towards club staff, police or other fans, and these now become a police matter. The club has no desire to see peaceful protestors punished, but will work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its own sanctions to any season-ticket holder or member identified, per the published sanctions policy.”
United have three more home matches – against Leicester, Fulham and the rearranged Liverpool fixture – with the first due on Wednesday week. There is a recognition at the club that security measures should be assessed for these. Some of those who gathered at the ground and at the Lowry hotel, where the team stay before matches, had intended to delay the game or cause its postponement and there are plans for more protests against the Glazers, whose leveraged buyout in 2005 loaded a debt on United that stands at £455m (€524m).
Sunday’s security arrangements had been designed to allow peaceful protests, and there was no heavy police presence in the forecourt of Old Trafford where the crowd assembled because there was no wish to send a provocative or negative signal.?The Football Association, which along with the Premier League is investigating Sunday’s episode, condemned the illegality. Sanctions against the club could follow.
United reiterated the promise from the co-owner Joel Glazer to engage in dialogue with supporters disaffected by the club’s signing up to the now defunct European Super League. “We remain committed to dialogue and engagement with our fans through the Fans Forum and other appropriate channels,” it said.
Whether this means Joel Glazer or any other family member will directly converse with them is unclear. The Fans Forum includes 11 representatives of match-going supporters, drawn from different sections of Old Trafford.
In an open letter to Joel Glazer, Manchester United Supporters Trust said on Monday: “What happened [on Sunday]was the culmination of 16 years in which your family’s ownership of the club has driven us into debt and decline, and we have felt ever more sidelined and ignored. After 16 years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us, the club’s Supporters Trust.
“After the events of yesterday we trust your attention is now fully focused on the question of what happens next at Manchester United.”
The trust presented a four-point plan including the appointment of independent directors and a fan share scheme that could lead to the Glazers being bought out. – Guardian