Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Manchester United fans protest billionaire's takeover

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Manchester United fans reacted rapidly to US businessman Malcolm Glazer gaining 74% of Manchester United shares after the three biggest shareholders, racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier and a mining millionaire sold their shares to the Glazer family.
John Reid, author, Reclaim the Game.ABOUT 2,000 men, women and young people came out on 12 May – some still in their work clothes or school uniforms.

Manchester United has been controlled by big business for a long time. They don’t care about the sport or about the feelings of working-class people in Manchester. They do care a lot about their own money.

The fans won’t have it. Singing anti-Glazer songs and the Red Flag, they staged a sit-in protest on one of Manchester’s busiest roads. They also called for a boycott of United games as well as all products of companies sponsoring United. There is the basis for an active, militant (and anti-capitalist!) fan movement in Manchester.

Stand up to big money

US-BASED billionaire Malcolm Glazer has secured a 75% control of Manchester United, financing his takeover through his earlier stake in the club, his ‘own’ cash, and an additional £275 million loan from the banks.

Fans worry that if Glazer gains 90% control in United he could transfer all these £540 million debts onto Manchester United. Yearly repayments from the club’s profits could massively weaken and possibly even bankrupt it.

Should we have any sympathy for a club that transformed itself into a big-business corporate brand? It made itself into a Plc, was in the forefront of establishing the ‘greed is good league’, the Premier League in 1992 and of moves to let home teams keep all the gate money, a change which favoured big clubs. It helped secure big television bucks for top clubs, and is one of the corporations dominating world football.

But for Manchester United’s fans, thousands of whom followed them even in the lean years, their club is not for sale, it is priceless.

They fear Glazer will finance the huge debts by putting up ticket prices way above the 27% they’re due to increase in season 2005/06. Will he franchise the stadium name to the highest corporate bidder? Will United break away, maybe with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool and secure separate TV deals with Sky?

This would be worth an extra £15 million per year for United. It would mean even less money for the remaining clubs and hasten the demise of clubs left out of the deal.

United fans have held huge demonstrations and are likely to continue demonstrating at the FA Cup final and at the first game next season that Glazer makes an appearance. Fans should fight to reclaim their club from the big business shark that now owns it.

If the Socialist Party was in power, we would nationalise the football industry and clubs would be controlled by fans, club staff, players and the local community. They would be non-profit making sporting institutions where fans would not only watch but could participate in the day-to-day running of their clubs.

Read John Reid’s Book on line