United CEO: Only small minority oppose Glazers
Fan protests have disappeared as Manchester United adds to its
”There are still a small number of dissenters and they will
always be there, and they have had long held views which they are
not going to change. We respect those,” chief executive David Gill
said Tuesday, a day after the club clinched a record 20th English
league title. ”Ultimately, someone has to own the club.”
Many United fans have opposed the Glazer family since it bought
the club in 2005, for years showing their disdain for the Americans
by wearing green-and-gold scarves in honor of the club’s original
colors. But after five Premier League championships and one
Champions League title, those angry voices have silenced and the
red is returning to Old Trafford.
Three years ago, many matches were marred by protests, mainly
because of the club’s huge debt. But United has slashed the debt,
bought Robin van Persie from Arsenal for 24 million pounds ($36
million) and overcome defending champion Manchester City to win the
league with four games to spare.
”I think they have definitely demonstrated that since they have
taken over, they have shown that what happens on the pitch is
crucial to the club’s ambitions off it,” Gill said.
Some fans are still not satisfied with the Glazers, who also own
the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gill said the team has proved it can – and will – invest in new
”But having said that, there will be a very small minority,
MUST, who will always retain their own views,” Gill said,
referring to the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust.
The team’s shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange at
$17.73 on Tuesday after a lackluster opening on the market at $14
In part using the proceeds of the initial public offering,
United has cut its debt in half in the past three years to 366.6
million pounds ($558 million), according to its latest statements.
United forecast record revenue this season of at least 350 million
pounds ($533 million), thanks largely to its ability to attract an
array of global sponsors.
But the pockets of animosity in Manchester meant that the
Glazers couldn’t celebrate the trophy success on Monday night with
the fans, instead heading back to the United States.
”They get the personal enjoyment,” Gill said. ”Are they going
to drink or anything like that? I wouldn’t think they’d worry about
that. The important thing is there’s really no ego about them. They
operate behind the scenes here, they don’t walk around saying `We
own the club.’ ”They are very mindful of the traditions and the
history of the club and people … clearly if you own an asset and
it comes up with winning a 20th title, it’s unbelievable.”
Manchester United is among five Premier League clubs with U.S.
controlling owners, joined by Arsenal (Stan Kroenke), Liverpool
(John Henry), Aston Villa (Randy Lerner) and Sunderland (Ellis
”I’m not going to name other teams who have been taken over by
foreigners,” Gill said, ”but you can see there are some examples
of some not-so-good foreign owners, shall we say – or owners,
because it’s not the passport that matters.”
Gill will leave the club at the end of the season and will try
to earn a seat on the executive committee of the Union of European
Football Associations. During his time at Old Trafford, he watched
crosstown rival Manchester City become a force under Abu Dhabi
billionaire Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who bought the club
City edged United for the 2012 league title, winning on goal
difference on the last day of the season.
”I’m sure they’ll come back. They’ve got some ambitious plans
on their investment and their academy,” Gill said of City.
”That’s what the excitement of the Premier League is. I’m sure all
the clubs who missed out this season will be doing business in the
summer – as we will be – with a view to come back all guns blazing
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris