The Socialist 19 May 2005 |
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Manchester united: Fans protest at billionaire’s takeover
ABOUT 2,000 men, women and young people came out on 12 May - some
still in their work clothes or school uniforms. 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.
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
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
John Reid, author, Reclaim the Game.
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.