Back In Black
Posted on September 6, 2011 7:58 pm
The Prevailing images are of protests outside Old Trafford. To my dismay, there seems to be much made of the nationality of the new owner, American Malcolm Glazer. It partly skims a nerve because my wife (fiancee at the time) is American, but the greater concern is that nationality shouldn’t be cause for protest.
More genuine potential issues seem to be a fear that Glazer might come in and change the team-name and colours a la US sports “rebranding” (which of course proved entirely baseless) and that this takeover would result in United being landed in substantial debt.
The debt was a bona fide concern. At this point in time, MUFC were entirely debt free and exceedingly profitable. However, what this meant footballing-wise was yet to be seen.
It was as a result of this takeover that certain fans moved to create FC United of Manchester. Frankly, that was a kneejerk reaction in my opinion, that was more about fans serving their own concerns than those of their club. They might point to increased ticket prices today, but that wasn’t a factor back then. Unlike many, I see the existence of that team as a slap in the face to my own.
As the years rolled on, the fuss seemed to die down somewhat. Then came the dreaded Bond Issue and the revelation that not only had the Glazer family not touched the principal debt, but that it had spiralled via interest, refinancing and PIK loans to around 50% above it’s original value.
Like most, I was shocked and annoyed. How could this have happened? What would happen to my team?
The Green and Gold movement gathered steam and after a short while, I considered joining MUST. I remember sitting in front of the computer, ready to sign up, when the more cautious, slightly neurotic side of my psyche stepped in. What was I actually signing up for? It was one thing to support a stance, but should I be arbitrarily putting my name to something, when in truth I’d done zero research into who they actually were?
I decided to give it some thought. Within a few days, the Red Knights emerged with a bid to buy the club from the Glazers. I noted with concern that MUST were completely behind the move.
That for me, was a turning point in this whole scheme. What was there to trust about this group? Sure, they were all purported to be United fans and Jim O’Neill had previously worked at the club. However, he also worked for Goldman Sachs. I’m not saying that O’Neill had anything to do with the unsavoury goings on at that organisation, or that he should have walked out on them. However, it at least raised questions… questions that MUST weren’t asking. Chief in my mind was the question of agenda. Was this simply a case of a few wealthy United fans stepping in to save the day, or was there a hint of potential opportunism to all this? I wasn’t happy about the debt, but I certainly wasn’t going to adopt a scattergun “anyone but Glazer” attitude.
That’s when I resolved to take a step back and assess the situation with significantly more attention and infinitely more pragmatism that I had previously. After all, United had yet to be affected in an on-field capacity and the Glazers were flat-out refusing to sell, sparking hope that perhaps they had a plan to get out of this.
This led to tollerance, especially in light of Ferguson stepping forward and declaring them to be supportive owners. However, I still held the view that while the Glazers had yet to specifically hurt the team, they’d done nothing particularly positive either.
Then I started to notice a lot of activity in terms of gaining new sponsorship and opening revenue streams, on top of the fact that they seemed content to let Fergie sign who he wanted. The outwardly nonsensical punt on Bebe proved that. Then there was the intervention to prevent Rooney from leaving and the fact that our revenues were starting to catch-up with our outgoings. Then the PIKs got paid off.
Ultimately, United have made a return to profitability. Say what you will about interest payments and lost revenues, it cannot be denied that there is finally light at the end of the tunnel and the club has not been affected one iota in terms of it’s sporting pursuits. What’s more, the revenues are stronger than ever, meaning that once the debt is gone, the Glazers will have had a positive impact on the running of the club after all.
I know I’m likely to get spammed for this post. I know there will be a lot of resentment. I know that some will say we aren’t out of the woods yet. Others will point to ticket prices.
Overall though, I think it’s time that I nailed my colours to the mast. There was nothing wrong with raising questions or voicing concerns over this period. However, the vitriol, hatred and ranting and raving were more the result of kneejerk reactions and a reluctance to be pragmatic than genuine concern for Manchester United.