Joel Glazer, co-chairman of Manchester United and one of the controlling shareholders of the club, has spoken at today’s fan forum and made some pledges about fan ownership.
The Glazer family have outraged the majority of fans recently by trying to take United out of UEFA and into a breakaway closed shop European Super League, which was toppled due to the backlash it created.
This has left the American tycoons reeling in the wake of protests and Glazer’s presence at today’s meeting is, in itself, a first.
The club’s official website confirms that ‘the club has initiated a direct dialogue with MUST [The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust] with the aim of identifying a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme involving a new class of shares which will each carry the same voting rights as the shares owned by the Glazer family.
‘This would establish a foundation for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake and create a new spirit of partnership with the club.
Glazer himself said:
‘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.’
This sounds revolutionary – that fans will have access to the same voting rights as the Glazer family, whose ‘class B’ shares carry double the voting power as ordinary shares.
However, according to one of the fan representatives at the forum, Glazer would ‘not confirm if [those fan shares] are volume capped but isn’t limiting it now’ – in other words, there could be a limit to how many of those special shares are available to fans, with the family still keeping the lion’s share.
MUFC FANS’ FORUM UPDATE:
Overall a positive meeting which left me cautiously optimistic. More detail is needed against the proposals as devil will be in the detail. Headlines include: pic.twitter.com/km4srfI57W
— RickMc0161 (@RickMc0161) June 4, 2021
Glazer also pledged to set up a fan advisory board and to expand the fan forum.
He also committed to a ‘major investment’ in Old Trafford and the training facilities, but did not specify how much this would be.
The fan representative also noted that Glazer would not commit to reducing the debt that the family had burdened the club with, nor change their policy in terms of drawing dividends for themselves even when the club was experiencing financial difficulties.
This led the fan representative to conclude that the ‘devil will be in the detail’.
There is reason for some optimisim that a ‘fan share scheme’ and ‘fan advisory board’ are being discussed but skeptics will wonder if they are moves that are being taken to appease the angry fanbase but without really relinquishing too much, if any, control.
Time will tell.