United’s Premier League meeting with Liverpool was postponed last Sunday after protests against the Glazer ownership outside Old Trafford and the team’s hotel prevented the match from being played.
Controversial plans to join the breakaway European Super League have re-energised anti-Glazer sentiment within United’s support, which has existed since their leveraged takeover of the club in 2005.
Following Sunday’s protests, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust wrote to Joel, the Glazer family member most involved in the day-to-day operations of the club.
MUST’s four-point plan for the ownership recommended a fan share scheme which would give voting rights to supporters, the appointment of independent directors to United’s board, support for the government’s fan-led review of football and regular consultation with season ticket holders on major decisions made by the club.
In a letter addressed to those who sit on United’s fans forum, Glazer committed to holding discussions on the subject of fan share ownership.
“As one of the few European football clubs listed on the public markets, we believe in the principle of fans owning shares in the club,” he wrote.
“We have previously engaged with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust on fan share ownership and we want to continue and accelerate those discussions, together with provisions to enhance associated fan consultation.”
Glazer described the government’s fan-led review into football as “a positive opportunity to explore new structures for fan engagement and influence” and pledged to “willingly and openly engage” with the process.
United’s co-chairman also reiterated his apology for United’s role in the Super League project, which spectacularly collapsed last month amid widespread opposition from fans.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in,” he wrote.
“We also recognise the importance of fan and football interests being embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club, and we are open to constructive discussions on how to reinforce that principle.”
In response, MUST preached caution, stressing that actions speak louder than words, and said that they would consult their members before engaging in any process with the ownership.
“The response could in theory – and we emphasise in theory only – be a change in direction and approach by the owners versus their silence and disregard for communication over the last 16 years.
“We will, however, determine our position based on the resulting actions rather than these words alone. We have seen empty words too many times previously.
“We will seek a mandate from our members and from the wider fanbase before proceeding. We only wish to engage in this process should our supporters want us to.
“The onus remains on the club to put right the problems of the past, not just the European Super League but the overall lack of communication and consultation by the owners.
“Our primary objective remains to ensure a supporter share scheme is put in place which carries equal voting rights to the shares held by the Glazer family. This scheme would be promoted to the global fanbase and should in turn build a notable stake in the club.
“Through all this, our goals remain the same and as set out in the open letter to Joel Glazer.
“We want a new Manchester United, with a meaningful shareholding for supporters and a meaningful say in key areas. This is our objective, and there will be no let up until we get there.”
Glazer’s letter to United fans
“Dear (Fans Forum representative),
“Thank you for your letter dated April 30, sent in your capacity as a representative of Manchester United fans. I read the contents closely and your love and passion for the club came across very clearly.
“I want to salute your service to the Fans’ Forum, which I know is a vital channel for consultation between the club and our fans. As I recently stated publicly, I am personally committed to ensuring that we strengthen this relationship in future.
“Your heartfelt letter captured the unique spirit of Manchester United, forged through decades of triumph, adversity and tragedy, and still powerfully present in today’s exciting team under Ole and the vibrant fanbase which you represent.
“I was personally humbled by parts of your letter, as you explained so clearly why our initial support for the European Super League left you feeling angry and let down. I would like to reiterate my sincere apology for the mistakes that were made.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in. We also recognise the importance of fan and football interests being embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club, and we are open to constructive discussions on how to reinforce that principle.
“We remain committed to working with the wider football community to make the game stronger and more sustainable over the long-term, and we will now refocus our efforts on doing this within the existing structures of UEFA and the Premier League.
“In addition, I want to reassure you that my family and I care deeply about Manchester United and feel a profound sense of responsibility to protect and enhance its strength for the long-term, while respecting its values and traditions.
“Our top priority is, and will always be, competing for the most important trophies, playing entertaining football with a team comprised of top-quality recruits and some of the world’s best homegrown talent. Under Ole, we feel we are absolutely on the right track.
“Success on the field must be underpinned by solid foundations off it. We have supported sustained investment in the team over many years, and that will continue this summer.
“We recognise that we will need to significantly increase investment in Old Trafford and our training complex to ensure that the club’s facilities remain among the best in Europe. As part of this, we will consult with fans on investments related to the stadium and the matchday experience.
“Indeed, one of the clearest lessons of the past few weeks is the need for us to become better listeners. To this end, I can commit the club will engage across all of the issues raised in your letter.
“To highlight some specific points, as one of the few European football clubs listed on the public markets, we believe in the principle of fans owning shares in the club. We have previously engaged with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust on fan share ownership and we want to continue and accelerate those discussions, together with provisions to enhance associated fan consultation.
“We recognise that the Government-initiated, fan-led review of football is a positive opportunity to explore new structures for fan engagement and influence. I can assure you that we will willingly and openly engage in the review, with the aim of putting fans at the heart of the game and ensuring their interests are advanced and protected.
“These commitments are a starting point for further dialogue, including all the specific points you raised, rather than final proposals. We want to work together to come up with an ambitious package of measures which will transform our relationship with fans and strengthen the club for the long-term. In this spirit, we will reach out to members of the forum to schedule a meeting in which I shall participate as soon as possible after the final game of the season.
“Thank you again for your work for the forum and your passion for the club. I look forward to meeting you and in the meantime let’s look forward to a successful end to the season.”