The outrage shown by Manchester United fans in light of news about The Glazer’s latest plans to float over 10% of the club on the New York Stock Exchange is somewhat surprising.
Initially the family had planned to use all of the profit from the sale to chip away at the mounting debts they had saddled the club with when they took over back in 2005, but when the documents detailing the proposed sale became public yesterday it appeared they had reneged on this and instead will pocket half of all monies raised.
The sale of the 10.2% of the club was meant to raise $333m, a fee that would go some way to decreasing the club’s huge debt of $664m (as of March 31st) instead just $121m will be used to bring the club out of arrears, just taking the debt from $664m to $543m.
As stated previously, the reaction to this news is surprising to me, not because I think what they have done is acceptable, but more so because their reprehensible actions should no longer shock us.
I’ve come to learn that fans of other teams incorrectly assume that we as United fans have only recently began to oppose The Glazers and their ownership of the club. Whilst the opposition has become more vocal in recent years, a large number of fans were against the takeover from the start and during their tenure as owners of the club we have seen why.
Mounting debts as well using the club as their own personal piggybank, their 7 years in charge has not made for easy viewing, at least not off field.
There are a number of transgressions that we could point to, to show how the Glazers have mismanaged one of football’s biggest and greatest institutions. For example it must have been a very merry Christmas in Casa De Glazer (I’m well aware they are Jewish) back in December 2008 when each off Malcolm’s 6 children ‘borrowed’ £1.66m. Or what about all the ‘management and administration fees’ paid to companies affiliated to The Glazers that total in the millions?
The Glazers have continually resisted offers to sell the club and it leads me to believe that this is one of the primary reasons, Manchester United have become a personal piggy bank to them and they would be crazy to relinquish this position of power considering United’s financial pull. But with the club so deep in the red they find themselves in their current position, having to auction off bits of the club in order to manage the rising debts.
United’s first trophyless season since 2005 hasn’t helped matters, crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage was an embarrassing failure and proved costly financially. Missing out on the league too will have hurt the books. And whilst the records will show it was purely by way of goal difference, the financial freedom of our parvenu neighbours Man City undoubtedly had a say in where the title ended up.
Whilst things have been bleak off field, on field it is a different story and this is where Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy will be enhanced.
It is continually said he succeeds in spite of The Glazer’s ownership, and you have to agree considering what is being spent around us. The titles, European Cup and European Cup final appearances since 2005 will all stand Sir Alex in favourable stead when this period of his United career comes under scrutiny.
For some he has been harming his legacy with comments in support of the owner. The backlash has been ugly but I’m sure he knows that he could have been even more successful without them at the helm. It is idealistic to expect him to speak out against the owners now, but when he retires I, like many, look forward to what he has to say.
Back at the start of July when The Glazers finally came clean and admitted that their running of the club ‘could adversely affect our financial health and competitive position’, Ian Ladyman summed up the thoughts of most fans perfectly when he wrote in The Daily Mail*:
“Theirs, after all, is a football club that used to be totally self-financing, a club that turns over the type of money every one of their domestic rivals can only dream of, a club that has been listed by Forbes as the world’s richest for eight successive years.
“Yet this is also a club that – if and when the debt is cleared – will have lost more than £1billion to the Glazers’ highly leveraged take-over of 2005.
“It’s rather frightening to think where United might be now had even a fraction of that money been spent on Ferguson’s team.”
Ridiculous money has been spent on paying the debt, money that could have been used on improving the team. Whilst I wouldn’t expect us to run wild and spend money like it’s going out of fashion, that’s never been our style, I’d prefer if Sir Alex didn’t have to continually repeat the refrain of there being ‘no value in the transfer market’, because although this may partly be the case, it only tells half of the story. The Glazers’ mismanagement inevitably means we will struggle to compete financially and this is just as much of a problem.
It is a noble stance to take and I am happy we refuse to be held to ransom (£6m in agent fees to sign Eden Hazard is madness), but unfortunately it is currently the climate in the game and we have to face the sad reality that either we adapt to this or we get left behind.
This won’t happen immediately, Sir Alex is too good a manager to allow it, but the future looks bleak under The Glazers. It appears the noise of our neighbours Man City isn’t just going to die down, I don’t think anyone believed it would, and with their financial freedom, despite the Sheikh trying to rein spending in, and our perilous financial position, the thought of Sir Alex retiring in the coming years become a much more worrying prospect. Not every manager will be able to negotiate the minefield he has with the same success.
Despite the whole sum not going to paying off the debt burdening the club, the sale of shares will go some way to lowering it and we remain an attractive entity as seen by the deal we signed yesterday with new shirt sponsors Chevrolet, but this situation is becoming untenable. Imagine what will happen if success continues to elude us?
You just wonder at what point ,and in what state will the club be when The Glazers finally decide to call it a day and leave town?
*The Daily Mail is a disgusting paper, don’t read it