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The Conundrum of the Green and Gold Protests at Manchester United

The video below, which was spotted by our pals at 101 Great Goals, was taken at Old Trafford during Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Hull City last weekend. In the video, we can see many United supporters sporting green and gold — the colors of Newton Heath FC, which was the original club name of Man United — in protest of the shady financial tactics of club owner Malcolm Glazer.

The fans, of course, have plenty of reason to protest. It was revealed a week ago that Glazer has not only saddled the club with a huge amount of debt, but plans to extract 70% of all match-day income from the club to pay out the interest and line their pockets with the remainder. The end result is that Glazer and his family will extract an astonishing £220 million from the club between 2010 and 2017 while leaving the club saddled with the exact same amount of debt it has now — a strategy that one fund manager has called, “a violent assault on one of Britain’s best known sporting institutions.”

Meanwhile, as the fans waved their green and gold scarves and chant in protest, Glazer sat in his mansion and thought, “Yes, please come to Old Trafford and protest me. Please pay those outlandish ticket prices I’m charging and tell me how much you hate me. While you’re doing that, I’m going to sit here and count all of this money you just gave me.”

This is the conundrum of the “Love United, Hate Glazer” crowd. Fans are fans. They want to go to games and support their clubs. However, for Man United fans, going to games means giving money to an entity they despise — an entity that has put the club on the financial brink and has no plans to change its business practices. So what do they do?

In most cases, the right thing to do as a consumer would be to vote with your wallet. Don’t like Wal-Mart’s business practices? Don’t shop there. Don’t want high fructose corn syrup in your diet? Don’t buy any Coke or Pepsi. (Except maybe for that Pepsi Throwback with real sugar that actually tastes 1,000 times better than regular Pepsi.) Don’t like the Recording Industry Association of America’s lawsuits against consumers? Don’t buy or download any music from the major labels. Put your money and your focus on independent artists and labels instead. This is how capitalism is supposed to work.

4301437560 427783658a o The Conundrum of the Green and Gold Protests at Manchester United

Basic capitalism, however, goes right out the window when it comes to football fans. These people have spent their whole lives loving and supporting a club. Asking them to switch that off — or worse, to change allegiances — is a complete anathema to them. No self-respecting Man United supporter will suddenly decide to support Manchester City because they disagree with the club ownership’s business practices. That ownership, however, has put the fans in a tenuous position; if they stop going to games, then the club might fail and become the next Leeds United, and again, what self-respecting Man United supporter wants their club to be like Leeds?

Furthermore, it’s not as if the Glazers are giving the fans a terrible product. This is what separates the Glazers from, say, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who is also raking in cash by gouging the fans. The Redskins are a terrible team. Man United is the three-time defending Premier League champion and is very much in the hunt for a fourth, not to mention they’ve been to two Champions League finals in a row and are in no danger of missing out on next year’s Champions League, either.

Then again, if the fans really hate Glazer, how much does that success on the pitch matter? Perhaps the only real message, as Barry Glendenning suggested on The Guardian‘s Football Weekly podcast yesterday, is to stop buying tickets and merchandise all together. All the green and gold scarves and “Love United, Hate Glazer” banners in the world might not be as effective a message as a half-empty Old Trafford on match day, because once the Glazers realize the fans aren’t giving them money anymore, they might decide it’s time to sell. A few supporters sent their message years ago by breaking away and starting their own club, but how many green-and-gold-wearing United fans are willing to sacrifice the heights of the Premier League for the depths of the Unibond League? The answer, it would seem, is not very many.

So what do you do, United supporters? Do you continue to give Glazer your hard-earned cash while swinging those green and gold scarves, which would seem to do nothing but preserve the status quo? Or do you stay home, keep your money in your pocket and attempt to force a change in ownership, thus risking the possibility that the club you love might collapse under the weight of all that debt? It’s a difficult question, but until a third option arises, it requires an answer.

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20 Responses to The Conundrum of the Green and Gold Protests at Manchester United

  1. Alastair says:

    The problem is it won’t be half full as there is always a day tripper to take your season ticket. You can’t even boycott cup games as they have a automatic cup scheme that is compulsory. The Green and Gold is the relaunch of the Love United Hate Glazer campaign not the end there will be more.

    LUHG

  2. Marc says:

    Its time to support FC United of Manchester. Two United’s one soul.
    I don’t care about Rio
    Rio don’t care about me
    All I care about
    Is watching FC

  3. brn442 says:

    It goes back to this so-called “fit and proper” joke of a requirement the Premier League has. Let me see:

    There are two American “Owners” of Liverpool Football Club that are two cash poor the sack the manager, much less invest in the club (via players/new stadium.)

    The Icelandic biscuit men that went belly up and almost took West Ham with them

    The absentee “owner” of Portsmouth who supposedly has never personally met the chairman, nor visited the actual club whilst the club struggles to pay its players, monies owed to other clubs, and the (not joking) previous “owners.” (forget David James, think about the ticketing agents, secretaries, ground staff, and reserve players that probably live wage to wage) What a disgrace.

    Mike Ashley who doesn’t know what due diligence is – enough said.

    Then the Glazers, who have done the best they can do, considering they should’ve never been allowed to buy the club with its own assets in the first place.

    Before the Premier League starts caring about whether a potential owner made his money selling conflict diamonds, weapons to dodgy regimes, or owns sweatshops, maybe they can start with reviewing their business plans to see if they can actually afford to buy the club with the “reasonable” risk of not bankrupting the Club or compromising the integrity of the League.

  4. PhillySpur says:

    It’s about time people stopped whining about the owners and realize what sport has become. It’s nothing more than a business enterprise. Except for the few oligarchs who treat the club as a toy, the owners are in it to make money. We’re not going back to the days of yore, so get over yourself. If you can’t get your head around this you’ll just drive yourself nuts. If you can’t accept it, stop buying the product and move on with your life. At least that will hit the business man where it hurts, in his pocket.

    • brn442 says:

      Philly, I would take a guess and say you’ve been following the sport less than 10 years, hence your nonsense. First off, if someone wants to make money, buying a football club at inflated value shouldn’t top their “to do” list.

      If you ask supporters of the clubs that are in trouble, they would welcome someone that can actually make money with their purchase. Based on the business models these owners had, they would be lucky to see a penny of profit.

      Put your Yank hat on: How would you react if, even with stable and guaranteed tv, merchandise, and gate revenue:The Phillies or the Eagles were having trouble paying their players, or that 76′ers were owned by __________?

    • Matthew N says:

      You’re missing the whole point. This isn’t about the owners of MUFC making money, it is about them placing the club as collateral on a MASSIVE DEBT upon their purchase. These owners, instead of paying off this debt, are choosing to pocket the extra cash. If this was any other business, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Corporations take out large loans and issue bonds all the time, but MUFC can’t even make a profit (even in a year when they sold Cristiano Ronaldo for over 80 million PS). Now, if they cannot (or can barely) make an operating profit, how are they going to get out from underneath this massive debt? If, on top of not making enough money, the owners are also extracting money from the ticket revenue, this makes the balance sheet look even worse and ignores the debt. The Glazers could really just pay the interest off on the debt, the minimum each year, while slowly sucking out a lot of income. Then, if the economy sours even further, Manchester United loses its competitive edge, etc., they can just let the club go into administration and forget about it.

      • Matthew N says:

        No one is bothered by these men making money… it is the fact that MUFC is over ONE BILLION US DOLLARS in debt and they are planning on taking money out for personal wealth aggregation rather than paying down extra on this debt.

    • patrick says:

      I’m just saddened that someone in Philly Union territory even follows Spurs.

      further I don’t think many EPL owners or major sports owners are in it to ‘make’ money. In fact some like the small loss on their ledger sheet. But the reality is they want to remain as close as possible to black…

      United is more the small dick syndrome. You go out and buy something you can’t afford to get you things you think you need. Malcolm and his boys wanted knew that United is one of the most famous brands, and could basically rise the value of all your other brands in an instant.

      philly spurs…. geez. you must also support the Dallas Cowboys…

  5. El says:

    interesting, this was a good post.

  6. PhillySpur says:

    Brn, I didn’t say you should like, it’s just the way it is and the sooner people realize it, the better off they will be. The EPL is as greedy as any other free enterprise. And if you don’t think the Glazers are going to come out of this with more money in their pockets then when they went in, then you’re talking nonsense. Owner make a lot of money without showing a profit on the books at the end of the year. Contrary to popular opinion, the Glazers are no fools.

    • brn442 says:

      You’re right Philly “the Glazers are no fools” indeed. They are money men, the worst case for them, is they simply walk away and leave the creditors to pick over Man United’s carcass.

      As Mathew said brilliantly, it’s about running businesses with healthy turnovers into the ground because of over-leveraging. This is not about sentiment – I could care less why someone buys a Football Club or any business (whether it’s to get a tickle in their Arse, impress the misses, or to make money,) but when you can’t pay your employees -that’s a problem. When it’s a club that’s in the top tier of the(supposed) richest league in the world – it’s an embarrassing disgrace.

  7. AtlantaPompey says:

    What a great article. Thank you for clarifying the frustrations of many people. As a Pompey supporter, I am absolutely disgusted with what has happened to Portsmouth FC. I refuse to give them any more of my hard-earned money. Not living in Portsmouth makes that so much easier. It would be very difficult for me to not attend matches, especially if I had purchased a season ticket.

    Green & Gold protests will do absolutely nothing to change the Glazer’s business practices. They are treating Manchester United as an asset, not as a history full of rich tradition with people who are emotionally invested in the club. This will reach a point where it cannot continue. What happens after that, I’m afraid, will not end well.

    Pompey didn’t pay their players AGAIN today. If what I’ve read is correct, this triggers a clause in the contract that allows them to walk in 14 days. Of course, 14 days will be after February 10th, when HMRC just might wind up the club.

  8. Niall says:

    The video makes the protest look more significant that they actually were. I was at the game the video was filmed at in the Hull City end and other than the Stretford Ford the singing was limited as was the number of fan wearing Green and Gold. There are too many fans who go to Old Trafford who don’t care about the football club and only go to watch the big name players and a successful team. No doubt there was a large number of United fans present at that game wondering what the Green and Gold scarves were about.

    FC United of Manchester was a club set up because of the Glazer family’s takeover of Manchester United, if the fans feel so strongly about the Glazer regime go and support a team whose fans share the same views as you do. It may be an extreme option but it would be interesting to see Gigg Lane full with unhappy United supporters supporting FC United of Manchester.

    As someone said earlier, the Green and Gold protests wont drive the Glazers out but it would help get a message across if the 70,000 so called Man United fans who watch the team each week rallied together to make their point.
    Instead its just small random sections of the crowd who really care about the club and that arent joining in because thats what everyone else is singing.

  9. great column and great points all around. I love the idea of fan protests but like everyone has mentioned, it’s hard to pull off an empty stadium. the only real answer is fan ownership. of course, as we’ve seen with the soap opera of the Real Madrid elections, that system aint so hot either.

  10. Midfield General says:

    Fan ownership is the long term aim. But we’ll probably need help from wealthy fans (we’re lucky to have a big fan base) and maybe external investors. 51% fan ownership would do for most people, written in club statute. Most fans accept that any owner will want some return – 25% or so in the PLC days was reasonable but 75-100% as under the Glazers is not acceptable or sustainable. Also set against the fact that our overall debt is steadily growing and even with that level of money taken out of the club we are barely just able to service the interest on our debt.

  11. Midfield General says:

    Join MUST and together we can force change. It may take years, or even decades, but the pillaging of our profits must be stopped sooner or later so the campaign stars in earnest. We are burning around £250k of our profits, per day on debt interest and “fees”. The fans are waking up, slowly, and as each piece of financial information trickles out, more and more will realise how much money we are losing and join the fight to stop it.

  12. Tyson says:

    I’d recommend people look up why the Glazers restructed the debt.

    The ONLY reason for restructuring the debt was so they could sell the club. With the way they had the debt set up previously they couldn’t do that and the only effect of restructing was making the club easier to sell.

    End of the day people are making a mountain out of a molehill everybody realizes the Glazers are not good news for United but I can’t see how anybody could be mad at what has gone on so far.

    I mean come on guys two weeks ago we were sitting here talking about how Manchester United were trying to sell £500 million in bonds and how difficult it was going to be. It took THREE days to sell half a billion pound worth of bonds, THREE freaking days.

    End of the day the Glazers have restructured the debt to make the club easier to sell and there are a lot of people interested in the most expensive sports entity in the world.

    If you guys aren’t going to take it from me how about taking it from Sir Alex Ferguson. I think we can all agree Ferguson puts the club first and doesn’t want to see it go down.

    Just read his comments on the situation. Is he lying for the Glazers because theyre cool or does he know the facts better than we do?

    I will personally guaruntee if United goes on the chopping block it will sell at 20 or 30% on top of what its shares cost within a month. There isn’t a problem here period.

  13. JIMBOOOO says:

    Try paying all the useless players less…

  14. Paul Lucas says:

    Going to watch United play is unfortunately lining Glazers pockets however, supporting your club through good times and bad is part of being a football supporter. It is not in our right, as fans, to turn our backs on our boys as it shows a weakness in our character. The loyalty we show by standing, singing, praying, and loving every minute of this beautiful game is not aimed at the financial backers of the club it is for the players, the manager, and ourselves. We wave the green and gold and support LUHG in hopes of better times and until then we continue to support United as after all it is “Until the day we die”.

  15. Obiad Dnia says:

    nice work! thanx a lot

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