Why are Man Utd fans protesting against the Glazers’ ownership?
The overwhelming majority of Manchester United supporters are vehemently opposed to the Glazers’ ownership of their club. But why?
The bad blood dates back to the very day that the Glazers bought Man United in 2005 and has escalated to new heights recently.
When did the Glazers buy Man Utd?
The Glazer family bought their first shares in the club in 2003, purchasing a 2.3 per cent stake after Man Utd’s board had begun a search for new investment.
By the end of 2003, the Glazers had increased their stake to 15% and they started to explore a takeover bid.
Step by step, the Glazers increased their stake and they had almost reached the 30% required for an official takeover bid by October 2004.
In May 2005, the Glazers bought J.P McManus and John Magnier’s 28.7% stake to take their overall investment to a controlling stake of 57%.
Within a month, the Glazers (brothers Joel and Avram pictured below with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) had reached the 97.6% threshold forcing a compulsory buyout of all the remaining Man Utd shareholders.
They were thus officially the owners of Manchester United at a valuation of £790 million.
Why are Man Utd fans protesting against the Glazers?
The Glazers’ takeover was immediately met by anger and mass protests from Manchester United supporters.
Supporters were furious that the American family purchased Man Utd via a leveraged buyout which was funded by loans – many of which were secured against the club’s assets.
The loans came to a total of £660m and were provided by three American hedge funds.
This thrust Man Utd into debt for the first time in over 70 years.
These debts were then to be paid off from future profits, with interest payments of over €60 million a year.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust stated at the time, “The amount of money needed to be repaid overall is huge. The interest payment is one thing but what about the actual £660 million?
“It is difficult to see how these sums can be reached without significant increases in ticket prices, which, as we always suspected, means the fans will effectively be paying for someone to borrow money to own their club.”
The Glazers were painted by fans as money and power-hungry leeches who only cared about lining their own pockets.
The fact that the club has paid out over £1 billion in dividends and bank fees to the Glazers since their takeover seems to support that notion. As does the fact that the Glazers even took out money during the Coronavirus pandemic – costing the club over €100m in revenue.
The Glazers were also accused of not caring about sporting success. This complaint seems to be supported by the fact that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (pictured below) has remained in his job since 2013 despite Man Utd failing to win the Premier League or challenging for the Champions League.
For the Glazers, so long as they are qualifying for the Champions League and the lucrative commercial and television deals are increasing their revenues, then they are happy. Woodward has announced, though, he will step down at the end of this year.
When the Glazers visited Old Trafford for the first time, hundreds of fans protested against their ownership with chants of “Die Glazer, die” and missiles were thrown at police vans. Things were so vitriolic that Man Utd legend and director Bobby Charlton issued an apology to the new owners.
A group of fans also created a new club, F.C. United of Manchester, said to represent the real Manchester United.
Over the years, supporters have criticised the Glazers for their lack of presence. When United co-chairman Joel Glazer issued a statement in the aftermath of the European Super League debacle, it was the first time he had addressed them in 16 years.
Anger over European Super League
The protests against the Glazers have been regular in recent years but were really reignited by the launch and quick demise of the European Super League.
The Glazers – and Joel Glazer in particular – were one of the main ring-leaders in the formation of a closed breakaway league that was set to include 20 of the biggest clubs in Europe.
The tournament threatened the long-term future of not only the Champions League and UEFA, but also the Premier League.
Joel Glazer was named as a vice-chairman of the league.
However, amidst mass fan protests in England – as well as government and royal intervention – the Super League collapsed within 48 hours.
The same evening of this collapse, Ed Woodward announced his resignation, with the 49-year-old officially leaving at the end of the year.
Joel Glazer apologised for Man Utd’s decision to join the breakaway league, but this admission was never going to placate fans.
A few days later, Man United fans entered the club’s training ground at Carrington carrying banners such as ‘Glazers Out’ and ‘51% MUFC’.
Thousands of Man United fans also descended on Old Trafford with flares and banners calling for the Glazers to sell the club.
The same weekend, prior to the 0-0 draw at Leeds United, Man Utd fans arranged for a small aeroplane to fly over Elland Road with a banner which read “2bn stolen #GlazersOut”.
And things really came to a head on May 2 when Man Utd’s match against Liverpool was called off after hundreds of United fans broke into Old Trafford and stormed the pitch calling for the Glazers to leave. Supporters also surrounded the team’s hotel and blocked their exit.
It remains to be seen what impact these protests will have on the Glazers but it is fair to say that the opposition to their ownership has never been so poisonous.