Knights renew commitment as Gill faces up to long-term protest

June 2, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 18 comments

The Red Knights insist that they are committed to bringing supporter ownership to Manchester United despite reports that the consortium’s bid is effectively over amid in-fighting and disagreement. The group of super-rich Unite fans, led by Goldman Sach’s Jim O’Neil, said on Friday that it intends to bid for the club only if Glazers’ price is realistic.

This comes as United chief executive David Gill back-tracked on earlier aggressive comments about supporters green and gold protest movement.

The Knight’s proposed £1.2 billion summer bid is yet to materialise with doubts surfacing about the both the group’s ability to fund an offer and the Glazer family’s willingness to accept a market-based price. Indeed the American’s public relations offensive in recent weeks has seen Gill rubbish the Knight’s ability to manage the club post-takeover and a leaked – although entirely false – report of a £1.5 billion bid coming from a mystery Middle East investor.

More serious still, Gill dismissed the supporter-led green and gold protest movement as little more than “a visible minority” who “don’t understand” the protest’s true nature. Many fans found the tone of Gill’s interview with the Independent newspaper both aggressive and offensive.

How quickly the mood changes with the Knights reigniting talk of supporter ownership by ousting the Glazer family from Old Trafford and Gill espousing a more conciliatory tone in the face of long-term supporter unrest at the club and, no doubt, the looming 13 June season ticket renewals deadline.

“The Red Knights remain committed to pursuing their efforts to try and help bring ownership of Manchester United to its supporters, and under a structure with materially less debt,” said a Knights’ statement Wednesday morning.

“As we have maintained however since news of our ambitions first emerged in March, we will only attempt to purchase the club at a sensible price, consistent with the long term interests of the club.

“We have spent some considerable time assessing the value of the club. If the fundamentals lead to a more realistic re-assessment then, along with our co-operation with MUST and other Manchester United supporters, we will aim to achieve our goals.”

With Untied showing huge losses in its quarterly accounts, essentially the consortium has chosen to put a bid on hold until either the Glazer family reassess its price or the ‘fundamentals’ of the club change. With the club haemorrhaging money and Payment-in-Kind (PiK) debt compounding at a frightening rate the Knights may now wait for the clubs’ finances to become distressed before a bid is forthcoming.

Despite the non-committal Knights tone, Gill now recognises that the supporters protest movement is likely to last as long as the Glazers remain in charge at the highly indebted club.

“I don’t think it’ll go away, there’s a protest movement there and clearly a lot of people who feel exercised by it and passionate about it,” Gill told Sky Sports yesterday.

“There were some comments last week that I was belittling the protest. That could not be further from the truth. We understand it and it will be there.

“It’s not about belittling that movement and I don’t think it’ll go away. We hope there will be even more red and white in the stadium next year.”

However, Gill still believes that the Knights group of super-rich investors is unworkable as a management strategy, although few on the inside believe the consortium will do anything but put a board in place to run the club. The Knights, say Gill, is not a workable management group.

“That’s my personal opinion,” added the United ceo.

“In my experience of running a club, and being involved for the last 13 years and in businesses before that is that having a whole group of people owning and running Manchester united is not workable.”

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) continues its campaign against the Glazers and in support of regime change at Old Trafford, although with no bid forthcoming before the World Cup the organisation’s strategy must now surely change.

“Green and gold has been a very visible way for supporters to show their disgust at how much money the Glazers have been wasting,” added Oliver Houston, vice-chair of MUST.

“It’s just one stage. We’ve gone from 30,000 people at the beginning of the year to 160,000 now and that shows the passion people have about the club. Whether it takes the form of wearing a green and gold scarf, or protesting to the government or withholding their custom.”

Despite the anger generated by Gill’s aggressive anti-green and gold statements over the past four months, it is likely the ceo would be asked to stay on at the club in the now unlikely event of a takeover this summer.

After all, fans may well be angered by Gill’s seemingly hypocritical support of the Glazer family over the past five years but the executive is well regarded in football management circles.

“If David Gill was offered a blind taste test of which company he’d rather be running,” asked Houston.

“A company that its £700 million in debt, with owners leaching money out of the club, with £66 million losses just announced or one where the fans and owners are on the same side working towards making the club better, we know which one he would choose.”

“Supporters know that only this (a Knights’ bid) makes financial sense and David knows this too.”

With no bid likely in the foreseeable future, Gill, the Glazers and supporters alike have a long summer wait ahead.


Mike Sturt - June 2, 2010 Reply

I have an acquaintance who was a Labour MP. His most annoying tactic when questioned on policy was to say “ah, but you don’t understand” His constituency is now Conservative – the public DID understand! Gill take notice.

teri - June 2, 2010 Reply

False statement- super rich, the rk are pretty much a poor piece of dodo. United did turn down a 1.5b bid, nothing gives you the rights say they did not because you dont know. You dont know anything that happens at united, you just write what your puppetmasters tell you to write. Another poor poor mis-informed article by a hick.

Ed - June 2, 2010 Reply

Haha brilliant. I’ll back my statement that there was never a £1.5bn bid. Your information comes from where exactly? Fortunately you don’t get to determine what my ‘rights’ are.

Although I think super rich is fine as a term – leading Knights have personal wealth between £15m – 250m. That’s pretty rich!

OhNoDrasdo - June 2, 2010 Reply

With Gill, its clearly self interest. He knows if (and its a HUGE if) the RK’s are successful in taking over, he’ll be the first out of the door. Presumably from his comments, he also believes that all football fans are neanderthal morons who dont have the ability to read a newspaper, use the net and decide for themselves how they believe the situation to be. Atleast SAF has defended fans right to protest.

Ed - June 2, 2010 Reply

Actually I think if the RKs ever make a successful bid they’ll ask Gill to stay on.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 2, 2010 Reply

Possibly… as much as I loathe Gill for his change of attitude towards the Glazers… this is the same man who was originally against the takeover, claiming, “debt is the road to ruin”… I suppose it’s no surprise to see him toe the company line in protection of his own job, (with a hefty pay rise as well)… It could well be that once free of his current employers, we will hear his honest opinions on their ownership… still, it doesn’t say much for his character.

John Smith - June 2, 2010 Reply

Gill was only doing his job as Chief Executive. That is relay the thoughts and plans of the shareholders, in this case the Glazers but previously the plc board. When he said the Glazers plan was too leveraged he was saying what the board of the plc thought, not what he thought. Same now when he says the debt is nothing to worry about. That’s not him, it’s the Glazers thinking that. Knowing his CV I’d say that he’d probably have wanted the plc to have some debt rather than sit there like a sitting duck. He may think the current debt is too much, who knows, and who cares? His job is to say what the owners think.

anthony - June 2, 2010 Reply

@ ed, man i dont agree with near enough all you articles and honestly i think you are abit of a sheep towards the protest and such, your bias and refuel to believe a single word from the club but i respect the way you technically refuse to back down from your beliefs. Me personally i hate the skintknights and must and just want back my team all the way (utd4eva), but if this bid does happen (unlikely), i do believe they have stated that they will keep david around cause of his passion for the club,

Ed - June 2, 2010 Reply

Depends on whether you think this or this or this is “being a sheep” – all very critical or questioning of the Red Knights’ plans.

Fact is I read (a lot, inc 322 pages of bond doc, 60 pages of UEFA docs, accounts, books, reports) go to conferences, analyse, report and comment – all totally independently. I’m happy for people to disagree and comment here. Nobody has their comment deleted unless they’re WUMs or personally offensive. If the club ever says anything that isn’t spin I’d be bloody delighted!

anthony - June 2, 2010 Reply

lol sounds like a very busy guy ed, but i will never believe claims my childhood hero’s are in dire because we’re far too powerful, i hear people claim we’re no cash but if that was true then where the administrator, man utd has a mass wealth and is still one/ if not the richest club in world football. We got a wee problem with debt sure but nothing we cant handle, fact being our great club can and will still compete at the highest level forever and a day because we are united.

Ed - June 2, 2010 Reply

I’d urge you to do some reading yourself… there’s loads of information, especially on the finances, which is not from either ‘side’ per se. Read the accounts, the bond doc, make you own mind up but get informed first. Personally I’d say that £720m debt, £66m lost in last quarter, and a whole bunch of analysts saying we’ll need to sell players is pretty serious even if it hasn’t got to the administration stage. But you should go find out…

Analysis of the bond doc

JP Morgan on bond doc

Financials – accounts etc

John Smith - June 2, 2010 Reply

yeah, if you want to read slanted MUST propaganda, read Andy Greens stuff. He admits that he is a MUST propagandist. If you want a balanced view read the official documents and ignore the vested interests like andersred.

John Smith - June 2, 2010 Reply

What a stupid article. The red knights have gone. Despite the stupid press release they’ve given up and cancelled the contracts of all their advisors and told the small band of investors to invest their money elsewhere. The red knights lost because they couldn’t raise the money. They never had a chance. Had they even raised the money they hoped, £800m, they would have made a bid and had it rejected and could have said ‘The Glazers are being unreasonable’ but they couldn’t even do that. They couldn’t even save their own face. Thank God they’ve gone I say and I know from other forums that most seem to agree.

simpson - June 2, 2010 Reply

Hey ED keep up the good work.

i love reading ur posts

i love this site.

keep up the good work.

anthony - June 2, 2010 Reply

Just seen a statement where skintknights said they only want to lessing the debt, yet january they wanted eliminate it then march they wanted keep a bond, which they orginally wanted rid off. Fact is these lads cant afford us and has gone back on their word several times now. They claimed make a bid by end season, that went to june1 then before the world cup and now no bid forthcoming. They dont even wanna match the £1.2bn price valuation, why cause they cant afford it.

ja - June 2, 2010 Reply

The glazer rapid rebuttal unit is out in force today.

John Smith - June 4, 2010 Reply

I don’t see any pro-Glazer people here. Only sensible United fans who knew that the red knights plan never stood a chance. Now that they’ve gone we can back to talking about Penalty Kicks and not PIKs, European nights and not red knights.

Ed - June 4, 2010 Reply

I doubt it. You don’t think that the £720m debt matters? It does… discussion about the ownership wasn’t about the Red Knights, it’s about the future of our club.

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