And so it begins in earnest. After months of pressure being to filter through from fan groups, the last few weeks have seen Manchester United fans begin to turn up the pressure on the Glazer family. Do not be fooled by people giving this anti-American slant, this is not about such trivial matters as nationality. Manchester United fans do not disagree about the club being owned by Americans, they disagree with how the club is being run, seemingly as a piggy bank for the Glazer family.
It seems astounding to consider that Manchester United are now saddled with a £712 million debt, which regardless of how much spin comes out of the United PR department, is growing year on year. The Love United Hate Glazer campaign is growing in strength, a group of potential benefactors known as the Red Knights have put themselves forward, led by Keith Harris, former chairman of the Football League. The Manchester United Supporters Trust is growing in size, F.C. United of Manchester continue to attract 2000 fans to watch non-league football.
Several groups converging toward one aim. The removal of the Glazer family as the owners of Manchester United, but is it a realistic ambition. For all the grit and determination shown by these Manchester United fans, the one question remains. Can or would the Glazer’s sell? On the surface, the current owners are steadfast in their refusal to even consider the possibility of a sale. They remain committed to United until 2017 at the earliest which creates a stalemate.
There is only one way to force the Glazers hand, but it would require strength and unity across a fan base, the likes of which has never been seen before. The fans have to stop going to United, stop buying all the merchandise, cancel their subscriptions to MUTV. They have to turn their back on their beloved club to strip revenue streams from the owners. There is no other avenue of attack left open to the fans in my opinion. Singing songs and protesting about the way the club is being run is all well and good, but the only way to hit the owners is in the pocket.
It may seem outlandish and for all the gripes that fans in England have had with owners over the years, a large percentage of the protesters continue to watch their team. For all the issues at Newcastle under Mike Ashley, the attendances didn’t fall enough to put real pressure on him to sell up. For all the United groups good intentions, the only way to ramp up the pressure is to stop going, stop renewing the season tickets, stop buying the new kits by the bucket load.
Without that, without showing true determination to change the path the club is currently on, to force the current owners to sell, to prove how much they care about Manchester United, they must turn their back and not return to Old Trafford until the ownership changes. I noticed in December, when I went for the League Cup Quarter Final, a number of empty seats that I had never seen at Old Trafford in the 20 years that I’ve been visiting the ground as an away fan. You could pay on the gate that night and it was £42.
Yet come the semi-final against City and the final against Aston Villa, the seats were all sold, though the green and yellow scarfs and shirts were in great abundance. People may scoff at Manchester United fans, but its an old tired joke these days. They’ve always been easy targets over the history of the Premiership, but even during the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s when United were not the power they became, they were always one of the most popular clubs in England.
Banners unfurled at the Wolves game on Saturday evening were directed at David Gill after he waded in to Keith Harris, rather unkindly I felt, but it was no surprise to the LUHG supporters.The question is, can the fan groups and the rich investors force Glazer and his family to sell. There is no other option for the fans. They have to boycott everything to even stand half a chance because at the end of the day, they can simply stay away. Only by hitting the club in the pocket can they make a real impact and I wish them the best of luck.