By Nick Harris
20 May 2010
The Manchester United Supporters Trust has responded to claims that the Red Knights’ attempt to buy the club is ‘doomed to failure’ by saying the super-rich fans’ plan is “progressing very positively”.
Media reports this morning said there is disaffection within the Knights group – led by Goldman Sachs’ chief economist Jim O’ Neill – and some members were losing hope of being able to persuade the Glazer family to sell the club. These reports came against a backdrop of a press conference in America where the club’s chief executive, David Gill, said season ticket sales were going as planned.
MUST, which has been campaigning among the wider fan base to support any Knights-led buyout, said in a statement released this afternoon: “Of course we aren’t able to respond directly to comments attributed to unnamed sources [reportedly within the Knights] but what we can say is that the description of the progress of the Red Knight proposal in the press is not consistent with the view that we hold having being involved in direct ongoing discussions with the Red Knight group.
“Talks have been going better than ever and are progressing very positively.
“It should also be noted that contrary to some reports MUST has not called for a boycott [of season tickets, or the club in general] although we are encouraging supporters to delay renewal of season tickets and executive facilities until at least the first deadline and ideally until a Red Knight bid comes forward. If the Glazers reject a bid or indeed are still here next season we will review that position accordingly.
“An official statement [from Gill] that ‘renewals are on track’ is not inconsistent with the view that there are likely to have been a very small number of renewals up to now, as in previous years, as there are still three and a half weeks to go to the first deadline which has traditionally been extended in any case.
“In recent years there has been a concerted effort by the club to frighten supporters into renewing season tickets because a queue of people are waiting to take their seat. Any supporter trying to sell on an unwanted ticket this season knows how much demand has fallen and furthermore there have been sections of empty seating even for the biggest games (often tucked up out of sight in the top corners of the stadium) so clearly the mythical ‘waiting list’ is little more than a cynical marketing ploy to dupe supporters.
“Clearly the Glazers are worried about season ticket and executive renewals, impact on sponsorship and the general opposition to their ownership given the incredible momentum of the Green & Gold campaign and so are seeking to undermine supporter morale.
“If that is the case they are severely underestimating the determination of Manchester United supporters and the anger they feel about the millions of pounds the Glazers are taking out of our club every year.”
As sportingintelligence has previously reported, the Knights expect to make an initial bid worth around £1bn for United before the World Cup starts on 11 June, and they expect it to be rejected as a cat’n’mouse PR battle unfolds around the ownership of the club.
The Glazers insist the club is not for sale, and point to annual profits that cover interest costs, as well as forecasts of increasing income and profits ahead, not least from increased commercial and media income. MUST say the Glazers have saddled the club with unsustainable debt and have spent (or committed) £437m on fees and interest since their takeover in 2005, money MUST says could have been better spent elsewhere.