Manchester United fans are being called on to sign a petition to demand that they are allowed to own a stake in the club.
Joel Glazer, one of the controlling shareholders of the club, yesterday attended the Fan Forum – a regular meeting arranged between the club and some fan representatives – and promised that fans would be allowed to buy shares under a new ‘fan share scheme’.
Glazer said that ‘the club has been in discussions with MUST [The Manchester United Supporters Trust] regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and .. discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.’
It all sounded promising, but MUST themselves have immediately responded to say that they expect that the fan share ownership scheme will not have any teeth.
‘MUST is cautious about whether this Fan Share Scheme will meet their own tests before they give it approval as despite the huge concession on voting rights that this proposal signals as ever the devil is always in the detail,’ the campaigners said.
‘In particular, despite Joel Glazers’ assertion that this will be “the largest fan ownership group in world sport”, MUST is concerned that there is a risk that the scheme will limit the number of such Fan Shares made available so reducing the opportunity for this to achieve a meaningful collective fan ownership stake – and ultimately with the potential to result in a change in control of the club.’
Although Glazer did not specify how many of the special ‘Class B’ shares will be made available to fans, it is clear that MUST’s organisers expect it to be a token amount. As long as the family retain the majority, that notion of fan ownership is meaningless.
Glazer’s claim that discussions with MUST ‘will intensify’ is completely discredited by MUST in their press statement. In fact, they go on to say that they are launching a petition to get fans around the world to put more pressure on the American tycoons for genuine change.
‘MUST is today signalling their intention to recruit the millions of members of Manchester United’s huge global fanbase to unite behind their campaign and sign up to their pre-launch “Sign For United” campaign site at www.SignForUnited.org so they can be part of the campaign when it launches in the next 10 days,’ they said.
‘The aim of the campaign is to demonstrate the huge appetite amongst United support for a better model of ownership which embraces the fans at its heart and in so doing compel the club to deliver a really revolutionary Fan Share Scheme which will both excite the fans and also exceed their demand for shares.’
The new campaign has noble intentions but it remains to be seen whether yet another petition is going to have much effect on the situation and cause the Glazers to really relinquish control of the club.
More direct measures, such as the clever initiative to target sponsors led by the #NotAPennyMore campaign could, in the long run, be the only way to effect a real change in the club’s ownership.