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Manchester United fans move against Glazers

Tue 27th Apr 2010 | Clubs Ownership

Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), is starting a campaign to persuade corporate sponsors such as Budweiser and Audi to help the Red Knights' efforts to buy the club from the Glazer family. The Red Knights is a consortium of about 40 wealthy businessmen, lead by Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill, interested in acquiring the club because of their dissatisfaction with Glazer management. MUST is supporting the Red Knights who are getting ready to make a £1.25 billion offer this summer. 

MUST, with over 150,000 members, is planning on lobbying Nike, Budweiser, Audi and Aon to use their influence to pressurise the Glazers into selling. "We want sponsors to put pressure on the Glazers to sell because we believe that the value of their sponsorship deals will be enhanced under new ownership."

The Glazers move to load to club with debt and also increased ticket prices have contributed to widespread fan dissatisfaction. A MUST spokesman said, "The value of club sponsorship is embedded in the special relationship between United and its supporters. But the unpopularity of the current owners creates a negative environment that is potentially damaging to sponsors." Given that analysts estimate that around £70 million, which is a third of the club's revenue, is from sponsorships this can be a strong motivator for the Glazers. If the takeover happens, fans are going to be offered a stake in the club in that they can buy new shares. However, the Glazers are consistently denied any interest in selling Manchester United. 

Another fans' group United Supporters for Change (USC) focused on companies with hospitality facilities at Old Trafford. USC leaked a list of over 400 firms and made a public request to these firms to stop putting money into the Glazer family coffers. USC also said, "The Red Knights hope to make an offer after the end of the season. USC 'peacefully' encourages hospitality companies to withhold any decision on renewing their facilities at Old Trafford until the Glazers have entered into sale negotiations."

The recent Glazer decision to freeze season ticket prices, after a couple of steady increases, has been read as the result of the successful fan campaign. MUST's chief executive Duncan Drasdo said: "It's important that as much debt is paid down as quickly as possible so that the club has maximum headroom to invest in new players and to ensure affordable ticket prices."

While the details of the Red Knights' bid are yet to be worked out, the £509 million bond will probably be retained by the Knights. This bond issue was a major source of fans' anger because the prospectus released at that time indicated that as things stand Glazers can take up to £127 million out of the club to repay the £200 million of hedge fund loans secured against United.

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