London (AFP) – Manchester United announced on Friday they will create a fan advisory board to improve supporters’ input into the club’s decision-making processes after the backlash to the English giants involvement in the failed European Super League (ESL) project.
United also said they had initiated dialogue with the Manchester United Supporters Trust with the aim of setting up a scheme for fans to buy shares in the club.
Protests against United’s owners, the American Glazer family, in the wake of the ESL proposals forced the postponement of a Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford in May.
United were one of the major drivers behind the plans that seeked to guarantee top level European football for 15 founding members and cap costs.
However, they joined the other five Premier League clubs involved by withdrawing from the breakaway competition within 48 hours amid intense pressure from fans, players governments and governing bodies.
Co-chairman Joel Glazer attended an online first fans’ forum for the first time on Friday.
The Glazers have been deeply unpopular since their leveraged takeover of the Red Devils in 2005 saddled the club with huge debts.
A combination of interest payments and dividends paid to the Glazers in the 16 years since has cost United over £1 billion ($1.4 billion).
“As owners, we want exactly the same thing as the fans – a successful team and a strong club – and we want to work in partnership to achieve those objectives,” Joel Glazer said in a statement.
“Fans are the lifeblood of Manchester United and I am personally committed to ensuring that they are given an enhanced voice, through the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.
“The club has been in discussions with MUST regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and has already sought external legal advice on options. Discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.”
The Glazers have also been fiercely criticised for a lack of investment off the field in the facilities for fans at Old Trafford.
The 76,000 capacity stadium remains the largest in the Premier League, but has become dated in comparison to many of their rivals.
“Old Trafford is at the heart of Manchester United and while we have spent over £100m over the last 10 years on infrastructure projects, we will now accelerate the process of planning much more significant investment and upgrades to the stadium,” added Joel Glazer.
“Rest assured, we will consult with supporters throughout the process to end up with a result we can all be proud of.”
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