By Nick Harris
28 May 2010
Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, have released a statement this morning via the club board – a statement that coincides with the publication of United’s quarterly accounts – that expresses in the clearest terms yet that they do not want to sell the club.
“The Board notes recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United,” the statement says, referring to the reported activities of the Red Knights group. “The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers.”
This comes in the wake of United’s chief executive, David Gill, giving a wide-ranging interview to The Independent about the state of the club.
In those articles, Gill talks extensively about the club’s debts and his attitude to them, how that attitude has changed over time, what he thinks about the fans’ protests and his views on the Red Knights. It’s all in the Indie pieces, so rather than sportingintelligence lift it all here, follow the links to read it as published in context.
United’s quarterly figures show turnover up from £71.6m to £74.6m in the three months to 31 March. Matchday turnover was down from £33m to £32m in the period, media turnover was up from £21.3m to £23.3m, and commercial turnover was up from £17.3m to £19.3m.
Gross debt fell from £543.3m to £520.9m, although this debt figure does not include the £200m-plus so-called “ticking time bomb” PIK (pay-in-kind) loans that accrue at high rates of interest, theoretically to a total of more than £650m by 2017.
The Glazer family, rather than Manchester United, is responsible for that, although of course if the Glazers do not clear the PIK debt before 2017 and don’t have the necessary funds to repay it then, it will certainly impinge on their ownership: they could be forced to sell United to pay it back.
The quarterly figures show United have £95.9m cash, which Gill says in the Indie interview is funding available to the manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, if he wants it.
Duncan Drasdo, the chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), responded to the United statement by saying: “Not For Sale – that has a familiar ring to it. Of course the last time Manchester United was ‘Not For Sale’ was back in 2005 and what happened next – the Glazer family bought it. It is clear from the reactions on the Manchester United message boards that supporters are not buying into the spin coming out through the Glazers’ PR machine.
“We know their US businesses are in major financial difficulty and there is huge unrest at their American Football franchise too with Buccs fans up in arms refusing to renew season tickets due to lack of investment by the Glazers. Sounds familiar? If the club really isn’t for sale why would they need to say anything at all? Why are they so concerned about telling everyone they don’t want to sell? If they don’t want to sell they can simply reject any offer. It sounds like the gentleman doth protest too much.
“The Glazers are clearly panicking over the powerful Green and Gold campaign, the growing opposition amongst supporters and the threat of a mass non-renewal of season tickets from supporters. They know that supporters have the power to remove them and they clearly fear that the anger amongst supporters at the millions they’ve taken out of our club has driven many beyond breaking point.”
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