The billionaire Glazer family is considering putting Manchester United up for sale.
For many Man United fans, there could hardly be more welcome news than this.
The Glazers’ ownership of the Premier League club has been deeply unpopular from the start, fueled by fan protests, huge debts and declining on-pitch performances during the 17-year rule of the Florida-based family.
Ahmed Bilal, editor of football blog Man Utd News, told Al Jazeera: “It’s an understatement to say fans will be delighted – the contempt for the Glazers runs deep.”
Why has the Glazers’ ownership of Man United been so controversial?
The late real estate mogul Malcolm Glazer took ownership of the club in 2005, after beginning his investment in Man United with the purchase of a 2.9 percent stake in 2003.
The cost of the leveraged buyout depended on a significant amount of 790 million British pounds ($955m) borrowed money secured against the club’s own assets.
The deal immediately caused an uproar among fans, who slammed the club’s new owners for saddled a hugely profitable team with huge levels of debt.
Despite making interest payments of an estimated £743 million ($898m) since then, Man United today owe around £500 million ($604m) in debt – almost the same as in 2005.
Dividends paid by the club to fans – an average of around £22 million ($266m) per season – are passed on to shareholders, the largest group of whom are the Glazers themselves.
To add insult to injury, Man United, once one of the most successful clubs in the world, have failed to perform on the pitch in recent years despite huge sums of money revolving around the team.
The club has not won a trophy since 2017 – a poor performance for a team with 20 league titles, more than any other club, and being the only English side to take home the treble of European Cup, domestic league and domestic league Gaurav Domestic Cup.
Bilal said, “All this has taken United from leading club in England to now catching up with the five or six other leading teams in the league.”
“There is great anger among fans at the scale of the financial outflow from United towards the Glazers with nothing to show for it in terms of the club’s improvement or its future.”
Tensions reached a new peak last year when hundreds of Man United fans broke into the club’s home ground, Old Trafford, to protest plans to join a proposed European Super League, which critics saw as elitist and anti-competitive. Branded.
In an interview with television host Piers Morgan earlier this month, star play Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the club this week by “mutual agreement”The Glazers joined in the criticism, claiming they were not interested in the welfare of the club.
Ronaldo said, “They will get money from the marketing-game… In my opinion they don’t care about that.”
Scott Patterson, editor of the football blog Republic of Mancunia, said that the Glazers have invested little in the club, to the extent that its stadium and training ground have fallen into disrepair.
Patterson told Al Jazeera: “He doesn’t have a clue about football and has hired a lot of people who share his lack of knowledge, who have made poor football decisions that have set us back years.” have make.”
“Only after our fans stormed the stadium at the end of the European Super League plans, did the Glazers start any kind of interaction with the fans. There is no relationship.
Who is going to take over as the new owner of Man United?
Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, executive co-chairmen and directors of the club, said this week that they Finding “Strategic Alternatives” To best serve the club and its fans, including potential sales.
“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and into the future,” he said in a statement.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the 27th richest man in the United Kingdom according to the Sunday Times Rich List, has openly expressed an interest in buying the club.
A lifelong Man United fan, Ratcliffe said in August via a spokesman that he was “certainly a potential buyer” if the team went up for sale.
Lord Jim O’Neill, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs who led the effort to buy the club in 2010, has also indicated his potential interest in the team.
In an interview with the Manchester Evening News on Wednesday, O’Neill said he would consider making an offer if the Glazers reduced their “unrealistic” demands, amid reports a £5 billion move for the family club ($ 6bn). However, O’Neill admitted that it was “very, very difficult” to see the way forward.
Other potential buyers in the media and among fans include private equity investors in the United States and state-backed investors in the Middle East, who have bought several European clubs, including cross-city rivals Manchester City, which was bought by the Emirati. Royal Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2008.
Even then, sales are not guaranteed.
And while Man United fans will not be sad to see the Glazers back, there is also concern about the possibility of the club falling into the wrong hands.
Patterson said fans are mindful of the potential for something to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.
“We just want an owner who will invest the money generated by the club into training facilities, stadium improvements, employing football people, signing the right players and developing youth,” he said. “We don’t need a rich sugar daddy and human rights abusers owning the club.”
Dale O’Donnell, editor of the Strate News football blog, said that fans should be cautiously optimistic as the Glazers’ likely exit had proved that fans are “the life and soul of football”.
“Anything can happen and we don’t want the club to fall into the wrong hands – for example, some human rights abuse by an autocratic state or similar,” O’Donnell said.
“We urge the UK Government to protect our football club because they did not listen to us when fans raised concerns about the Glazers.