The real-life tales of a football writer
Here’s an extract from an interview with the award winning journalist Martin Samuel from the current edition of United We Stand.
“I accept all the issues that people have with the Glazers, but the football has been superb while they have been in charge. They have said: ‘Whatever the Scottish bloke wants, just say yes,’ It’s not a bad way to run a football club because he knows what’s best. Whatever Fergie wants, they do. I like that.”
But the club’s £645 million in debt…
“And? That’s business. That’s for the boardroom. Are we transforming into a new breed of football fans who want to look at balance sheets? What are we, accountants?
"Some fans wander around saying ‘Premier League survival is more important than the FA Cup.’ It’s not. Winning the FA Cup is the best thing that can happen to a fan.
"I remember the 1975 FA Cup final and the 1980 final better than any other moment as a West Ham fan. Do people look back in 30 years and say: ‘Remember that season when we came 15th, that was a season and a half.’ Or do they say, ‘Remember when we won the FA Cup?’ Nobody cheers a balance sheet or puts it on an open top bus.
"There’s no prospect of United becoming Leeds United so why the worry? You’ve just won the f*cking European Cup and the league.
"We’ve got a bloke at West Ham who had money and now it seems that he’s potless. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. What am I going to do, support a different club? I cheer the team and boo the team, that’s what supporters do.”
Bryan, Avram and Joel observe
I like Samuel and he’s a superb writer. But I don’t agree with him.
Despite recent pieces by David Conn, Des Kelly and Henry Winter pointing out the contrary, the view about the Glazers being the perfect owners is gaining worrying currency, as much among United fans as outsiders.
90 percent of match going United fans have no interest in the owners of the club. As long as the team are winning, nothing else matters. That figure is close to 100 percent among the millions around the world who don’t go to matches.
Of those who are more interested, there’s swelling opinion that the debt is not an issue, it’s just the way business works. And if you don’t like the ticket prices, tough, there’ll always be someone else to take your place.
Well we’ll see, but I’m not convinced.
I spoke to the former chief executive of a major bank recently. He’s a football fan and I wanted his view.
“They (the Glazers) have done nothing wrong,” he said. “What they did happens in business all the time. What matters is their ability to pay the loans and they are doing that.”
The conversation depressed me, yet there are plenty who shrug their shoulders and say: “It’s Manchester United, we’ll be alright.”
Maybe United will, but the club’s holding company recently posted an annual pre-tax loss of £44.8 million, that after the most successful financial season in the club’s history.
Rising ticket prices, commercial deals, on the field success and television money all helped United’s turnover to a massive £256m, yet the club are sitting on a rising debt of £699m.
Before the repayments, United made £66m, but that was wiped out by the interest payments and unless the club refinance, United have to pay back £1.1 billion in the next nine years.
Under the current lending terms, that’s £75m in 2013, £150m in 2014, £150m in 2015, £150m in 2016 and a final payment of £600m in 2017.
Opinion remains very much split
You won’t find any dissenting voices from those within the club. If fact you won’t find any because United have refused to comment on the latest figures to journalists.
The Glazers too have refused to do interviews in the four years since they took over the club. They have a public relations man on the payroll who is based in England. What, exactly, does he do about from say “no comment”?
Sir Alex Ferguson has described them as “terrific owners” and that, sadly, is good enough for most fans. His justification was based on a lack of interference and the fact that compared to the abomination that is Hicks and Gillett at Anfield, the Glazers could be worse.
Last summer, I received a text. It was from someone who was about to meet one of the Glazers. Was there anything that I’d like to pass on to that particular brother? There was and it was very strongly worded.
“Consider it done,” came the reply. I never heard any more.
The Glazers were not needed any more than they were wanted. United were the most profitable club in the world, respected for their commercial acumen and virtually peerless on and off the field.
They will probably re-finance until they sell Manchester United for profit, having maintained the increase in revenues which attracted them in the first place.
Except debt, they’ve added absolutely nothing to Manchester United and taken much away. And if they get away with it, they’ll have one person to thank above all others. And he’s from a lot closer to Mount Florida than Florida.
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While your right about them not being needed the club was always going to be sold if the right bid came in. Take a look at the two city takeovers the first is a felon and tha second bought the club as a status symbol/plaything throwing money about with no real plan. They you have Liverpool with infighting that could bring it to its knees. West Ham who gave Lucas Neill 75 grand a week and now dont have a pot to piss in. Having one owner who needs to keep the club sucessful if he ever wants to make a profit has a good business sense and knows that you need to let people who understand football run the club is not the worst thing in the world.
You're not the only red to show concern about the finance. I have ever since they took over, as long as the debt can be managed but can it?
Anyone with half a brain is concerned by the debt. Simple fact is that if you're not, you're only kidding yourself.
The only way I can see them servicing the debt is by breaking the current Premier League TV deal and doing a deal for the club by itself. Now at the present time, I would envision the rights being worth an absolute fortune, but who's to say that will continue if our on-field fortunes don't stay at the very top year after year? And what happens if United pull out of the PL rights deal? I would say the likes of Sky et al won't be coughing up half as much for the rights in future if United are operating solo and negotiating with different broadcasters. Thats when the whole PL house of cards could come crashing down.
The Glazers just about getting away with it at the moment but its all balanced on a knife edge. I fully expect them to increase my season ticket price in June, despite the economy being on its knees and there being DEFLATION in the economy as a whole. I just can't wait to hear their justification for it (and it isn't demand for tickets, I can tell you that much).
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