Wednesday, May 5, 2021

European Super League: Man Utd owners the Glazers face fresh challenge from Red Knights

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 23 Apr 2021

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Prominent opponents of the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United have issued a list of reform demands after the club’s part in the ill-fated European Super League.

The breakaway competition, which sought to establish a closed-shop competition featuring 12 of Europe’s elite clubs, collapsed this week 48 hours after its launch, in the face of widespread opposition.

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward announced he would step down from his post amid escalating and dramatic events on Tuesday and co-chairman Joel Glazer apologised to fans in an open letter – the family’s first direct communication to supporters in 16 years.

Nevertheless, a fresh round of anger directed towards the American family has shown no sign of abating, with United great Gary Neville demanding they sell up and a group of supporters gaining access to the club’s training ground to stage a protest on Thursday – manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acting as a mediator.

Tapping into this and wider calls for fans to be granted a greater voice in the aftermath of the Super League fiasco, Lord Jim O’Neill and Paul Marshall – the architects of the Red Knights campaign that sought to unseat the Glazers in 2010 – have issued a letter calling for United’s owners to reduce their stake in the club to a maximum of 49.9 per cent from the current 75 per cent, undertaken at a discount to the current trading price.

They also want United to scrap their dual-class share structure and introduce a single class of voting stock to “encourage a broader group of investors to consider ownership in the club in the future if they have the same voting rights as everyone else, especially you and your siblings”.

The Bundesliga’s 50+1 ownership model, which guards against commercial investors having a majority of voting rights, has been held up by some in England as something to aspire towards in any resulting reforms of football governance.

O’Neill and Marshall have requested the Glazers apply this principle on a new supervisory board, which would oversee changes in ticket prices and any future proposals to join a new league or competition.

“On Thursday of this week, you issued an open letter to Manchester United supporters in response to the outrage at the club’s involvement in a proposed new European Super League,” the letter read. “We note that it was the collapse of the idea that prompted your letter, rather than the wisdom of your decision to join. You admitted that ‘we got it wrong’ and went on to say ‘we want to put things right’.

“In many ways, this episode is the culmination of your 16 years ownership of the club and is perhaps the strongest example of how you seem to have been persistently out of touch with the culture, spirit, indeed, very purpose of Manchester United.”

They added: “In your letter, you talk about rebuilding trust with the supporters, which presumes there was trust in existence before the events of last week. As you know, others might question whether that trust was ever present. If your stated desire to rebuild trust is sincere, these proposals are the minimum steps you should choose to make.”

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