Clues hidden within Manchester United’s annual accounts suggest that jubilation over the aborted European Super League could prove to be short-lived.
Despite the scale of public outcry over the failed ‘coup’, the botched league isn’t mentioned in the statement until page 30 of a 226-page document.
As covered by The Athletic, both the Premier League and UEFA requested goodwill settlements to paper over the attempted breakaway, which the Glazers themselves will donate to affiliated charities of the governing bodies.
It’s reported that UEFA’s levy alone could cost up to £8m. Coincidentally, that’s about the same figure the Glazers received from the first of two annual dividend payments.
The paragraphs that could cause the most concern hint at the Glazers’ dissatisfaction about collective bargaining among PL and UEFA clubs over broadcast revenues.
United intimate that they’re being undersold regarding TV rights, which further emphasises the split among PL clubs that revealed itself during disputes over substitutions and match coverage last April.
The document says, “We are not a party to the contracts negotiated by the Premier League and UEFA…further we do not participate in and therefore do not have any direct influence on the outcome of contract negotiations.”
Critically, it continues that these contract terms may not be, “as favourable to us as we might otherwise be able to negotiate individually with media distributors.
“Furthermore, the limited number of media distributors…may result in reduced prices paid for those rights and…a decline in revenue received from media contracts.”
This is the same wording that appeared in both 2019 and 2020, demonstrating that the Glazers are aware of how much more they could make if they broke away from the collective.
And, just to hammer home the message that being part of the football pyramid limits their hunger to maximise profits, the next section is even more explicit about their frustrations.
“Our interests may not always align with the majority of clubs and it may be difficult for us to effect changes that are advantageous to us.”
At present, 14 out of 20 PL clubs must reach agreement over governance, which seems to have stoked divisions that could destabilise the league in the future.
Elsewhere the document discusses rising player wages and falling revenues – which result from the impact of the pandemic, so are not seen to pose a long-term problem for the club.
Although it seems clear that the Glazers are straining at the leash to break away from the pyramid that underpins and safeguards football in England and Europe, there is some solace for fans anxious about another breakaway attempt.
The effects of the pandemic meant that match day incomes plummeted from £90m at the end of 2020 to just £7m at the end of the 20/21 season. It’s also acknowledged that a healthy reputation is central to the Red Devils’ brand.
Therefore, contrary to the opinion that modern-day fans matter less, it seems clear that, from a financial and reputational perspective, they’re still essential to the long-term success of the club.