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What you didn’t see on Match of the Day

January 17, 2010

Fan protests against the 2005 takeover proved futile - teamtalk

“How we’ll kill him I don’t know
Cut him up from head to toe
All I know is Glazer’s gonna die”

With United 2-0 up and the dark drawing in towards the end of a rare Saturday 3pm kick-off at Old Trafford, the front row of the Stretford End unfurled a banner. Hanging across the scoreboard by the impressive north-west quadrant for maximum effect, it read simply: “MUFC – Love United Hate Glazer”.

It sparked a small cheer and then slowly increasing interest as people began to take notice – some glancing up to check how much time was remaining for Burnley to get back into the game, others alerted to the banner by their neighbours. After a couple of minutes a row of orange-coated officials emerged from the stairwell and raced down the steps intent on removing the offensive message. The culprits were not giving up easily and soon ran, one displaying another banner before being tackled and escorted out to boos.

American tycoon Malcolm Glazer also owns Tamba Bay Buccaneers in the NFL

This led to a ten-minute outpouring of disgust towards a man who bought Manchester United in May 2005, heavily assisted by a loan, and whose family are now intent on restructing the loan debt once again by converting it into bonds. United paid out over £40m in debt interest repayments alone last year, and since 2005 the debt has grown. A debt, by the way, which was immediately passed onto to the club.

Perfectly natural and sustainable in business terms, we are told. That may be true, and the suggestions in the news this week that Old Trafford may be sold may be hasty exaggerations. But what is certain is that five years ago a football club that attracts 75,000 people to watch it live every fortnight was not in debt, and now it is.

You won’t have seen any of this on the BBC last night, of course. On Match of the Day, a show seemingly produced, presented (and perhaps watched) by people who think Marouane Fellaini doing ‘a Maradona’ in the middle of the pitch is more important, in sporting terms, than whether or not one of the biggest football clubs in the world will exist in its current form a few years from now, the only illustration of the impromptu demonstration was the five-second clip of Burnley forward Steven Thompson heading against a post with the backing track of “Malcolm Glazer, you’re a wanker, you’re a wanker” audible only to keen-eared and switched-on viewers.

This was the biggest manifestation of matchday anger against the Glazer family since before the Floridians bought the club, and of course came after recent reports that suggest the frequent platitudes of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill about the levels of debt and the danger it poses to Manchester United are misleading.

One of the many stickers made by the anti-Glazer campaign

Some argue that two attempts to restructure the debt shows that the figures are not quite as simplistic as the Glazers thought, and some fans believed. Others argue that the actions taken are normal, that the club is in safe hands, and that the fans shouldn’t concern themselves with off-field matters – a camp that must include Ferguson, who told a fan in late-2005 to ‘go and watch Chelsea’ if he didn’t like what he was seeing off the pitch.

Every United fan knows about Ferguson’s managerial ability. But his fall from morally-principled defender of working-class values to hypocritical yes-man has happened only in the eyes of a minority of Reds. The Glazer takeover has mattered to very few people proportionally, and yet some feel that the long-term future of the club they love (it is surely erroneous, by now, to say ‘their club’) is worth discussing and protesting about. Those fans who left to form FC United of Manchester in 2005 fell into that category; those who plaster Manchester and Greater Manchester with Love United Hate Glazer stickers do too, as do those who unfurled the banner and those who reacted vocally to it yesterday afternoon.

Many will see the discussion as academic: United got the benefits of football turning into business when they went plc in 1991 and enjoyed a string of on-pitch successes, so shouldn’t complain now. Many supporters, who despise United, their fans, and their success, would be happy to see their fans outraged and have no sympathy. Their view may have some valid grounds, but the discussion is surely at least worth having?

United chief exec David Gill has frequently expressed support for the Glazer regime - telegraph

Some will point to clubs who have – ostensibly – more pressing problems. Portsmouth are in serious financial trouble and haven’t paid their players for weeks. Their game against Birmingham was postponed yesterday, thus negating the need for Lineker, Hansen and Shearer to discuss their plight – something that matters far more than whether they would have won or lost yesterday, and even whether they get relegated in four months time, however much that might contribute to their problems.

Whether United fans can do anything about the debt, and the Glazers, is doubtful. Though few tears will be shed when Malcolm Glazer dies, it is hardly likely that many fans would act on their purported desire to kill him – for most it is, of course, hyperbole, a way of fervently expressing their distaste. But they can, and most likely will, continue protesting, spurred into action by being prevented from demonstrating their feelings by the stewards in the pay of those they despise.

You may read about it if you frequent certain football fansites or fanzines. Maybe even if you read David Conn in The Guardian or Patrick Barclay in The Times. Just don’t expect to hear about it on Match of the Day.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil Jones permalink
    February 21, 2010 12:13 pm

    But his fall from morally-principled defender of working-class values to hypocritical yes-man has happened only in the eyes of a minority of Reds.


    • Ben Winstanley permalink
      February 21, 2010 1:44 pm

      Cheers, corrected.


  1. BBC Glazer investigation « The Videprinter

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