Outgoing executive vice chairman Ed Woodward was brave enough to show his face at Manchester United’s fan forum after the failed European Super League project, but his words sounded hollow and insincere.
‘I know that you will feel angry and let down by the lack of consultation and by the way the proposal failed to recognise the vital principle of open competition. Proper discussion would have helped us avoid the mistake we made,’ he said.
‘While there would have been a substantial increase in solidarity payments from the leading clubs to the rest of the pyramid across Europe, we fully accept that there were fundamental elements which were badly misjudged.
‘As Joel [Glazer] said last week, we failed to give enough weight to the essential principles and traditions of sporting merit which are so vital to football.
‘We want to restate our commitment to those traditions. I can assure you that we have learned our lesson from the events of the past week, and we do not seek any revival of the Super League plans.
‘We will now continue working with the rest of the football community to address the long-term challenges facing the game.
‘We will be listening closely to your feedback today, and we’ll be taking it away for consideration as we review how we can engage more effectively with you in future.’
A statement crafted by MUST – the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, was then read out to Woodward explaining how the fanbase felt about recent events. The fact that this, the fans’ contribution, was not included on the club site alongside that of woodward immediately makes a mockery of the promise of openness and transparency that was promised by the board. Some of the text of the long statement included:
‘We are disgusted, embarrassed and angry at the owner’s actions in relation to the planning, formation and announcement of the European Super League.
‘Once again this clearly demonstrates that the club’s owners are only interested in maximising their own profits and do not care about or respect the views of Manchester United fans.
‘The complete lack of engagement with fans, our players and manager is a gross mishandling of club affairs and one which we cannot forgive. It was an attack on fans and on clubs across the whole of football and we have simply had enough.
‘Joel Glazer’s subsequent apology is not accepted. Actions speak louder than words and he and his family have shown time and again that their sole motivation is personal profit at the expense of our football club.
‘Addressing the financial challenges some of the clubs involved face is no justification for this proposal … For Manchester United we would remind you that £1 billion has gone out of the club in the last sixteen years to fund the ownership of this club.
‘We … request you agree to:
‘1. Willingly and openly engage and promote the government initiated fan-led review of football and use this as an opportunity to rebalance the current ownership structure in the favour of supporters and not approach this review defensively to fight for the status quo
‘2. Appoint independent directors to the board whose sole purpose is to protect the interest of the club as a football club, not its shareholders and their focus on profits over results
‘3. Work with the Manchester United Supporters Trust and supporters more broadly to put in place a share scheme that is accessible to all and that has shares with the same voting rights as those held by the Glazer family
‘4. Commit to full consultation with season ticket holders on any significant changes to the future of our club, including the competitions we play in
‘5. Provide a commitment by Joel Glazer that any costs incurred in relation to the creation of, or withdrawal from, the European Super League will be funded solely by the Glazer family and not by the club itself. We note that the Kroenke family have already made this commitment to Arsenal fans.
‘We request a written response to the above points within seven days.’
It will certainly be interesting to see whether Woodward and the Glazer family respond in any way to the request. It seems unlikely to say the least.
A protest march demanding change will be held on Sunday at 2pm on the Old Trafford forecourt, with the Liverpool match following at 4.30pm.