By Nick Harris
3 March 2010
The global publicity attracted by yesterday’s news that the Red Knight group have started exploratory talks to raise money to try to buy Manchester United has helped membership of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) to more than double, and has now smashed through the 100,000 barrier.
A month ago, MUST had 36,000 members. By the early hours of this morning that had grown to 78,000, and by 10.30am this morning the numbers had grown to 83,996. At 6pm today, the figure was 95,970 and growing steadily and by 10.45pm was past the target figure of 100,000. At that point, the number was 100,510. The latest figures and more information on the campaign are on MUST’s website.
A press release from MUST released in the early hours of today said: “After a day of intense media interest in the revelations of the Red Knights group, the membership of MUST – the Manchester United supporters trust hit a new high last night and the growth shows no signs of slowing down.”
As sportingintelligence revealed yesterday, the Red Knight proposals are fledgling, and ambitious.
Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of MUST, said today: “Following the Red Knights revelation and the call for all United supporters to come together and demonstrate their support for change of ownership by joining the free online membership of MUST there has been an incredible uptake. A month ago prior to the publication of the bond prospectus MUST membership stood at 36,000 members. Last night that figure had doubled to an amazing 78,000 members – now bigger than Old Trafford itself.
“The majority of that growth has come in the last 24 hours and with a membership counter ticking over on the website it has generated huge interest. The membership counter has even developed its own fan club on Facebook and discussion boards with a running commentary following each update of the figures.
“MUST has set an initial, highly ambitious goal of growing to 100,000 members. An incredible first 24 hours means we are well on our way and we are now appealing to the millions of United supporters around the world to come together, join the free online campaign membership on the MUST website and show the Red Knights their is a passionate desire to see a better ownership model for Manchester United.”
That “highly ambitious” target is within sight already which will be a PR boost if nothing else. The hard part will come when MUST needs actually to amass its buyout kitty by “monetising” that support, to use a phrase that sends shivers down the spines of many fans almost as quickly as “hedge fund”.
The Glazer family have said they have no interest in selling the club. Independent estimates of its value vary from £1.3bn to £1.5bn. The Red Knights have yet to work out how they can reach that total, or what strategy to pursue to try to force the Glazers to sell. United’s half-yearly figures, released yesterday, showed income up, and debt down from £538.1m to £507.5m, although this does not include the PIK (pay-in-kind) debt of £202m, described as the “ticking time bomb” debt.
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