Joel Glazer has defended his family’s ownership model at Manchester United and promised supporters the opportunity to acquire a “meaningful ownership stake” in his first meeting with fans in 16 years.
The co-chairman, who said that the proposed Fan Share scheme could create “a new spirit of partnership” at United after widespread protests against the owners in recent weeks, also promised further investment in Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s playing squad, Old Trafford and the training ground in meeting with the fans’ forum on Friday.
“Our goal is to win every competition we compete in, and we will continue to invest in our academy and in the transfer market to support the manager in an effort to meet the club’s goals,” Glazer was quoted by the club as saying.
“We want this club to always be successful and win trophies. To compete for trophies requires significant investment. The commercial growth at the club has helped deliver the revenue which ultimately underpins that investment in a sustainable manner. That approach has allowed us to have among the highest net transfer spend in world football over the last five years and have one of the highest wage bills. Also, as a direct result of our commercial business, we have kept ticket prices affordable for all fans and not raised season ticket prices in over 10 years. This is an area that we as a club are very proud of.”
The proposals to strengthen fan representation include the creation of a fan advisory board that will consult the club’s senior leadership and owners and be made up of forum representatives. United say they are in dialogue with the supporters’ trust (Must) with the aim of identifying a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme that would include “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 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.”
A statement from Must said there had been a “frank exchange of views” in Friday’s meeting and that Glazer had been “held to account on a series of issues including debt, dividend payments, tickets prices, lack of investment in the stadium and lack of engagement with supporters for 16 years”.
It described the share scheme as “potentially revolutionary”, and said: “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.
“In particular, despite Joel Glazer’s 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.
“For that reason 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 so they can be part of the campaign when it launches in the next 10 days.
“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.”