Reasons to be cheerful



Though last season’s climax will linger odiously in the minds of Manchester United fans, the summer which has followed is one easily forgotten. On the pitch, the absence of key players, due to international commitments at both the European Championships and Olympics, has seen United’s depleted squad score just three goals in five games against markedly inferior opposition, save for Barcelona.

Meanwhile, away from it, only moderate activity in the transfer window has left a midfield bereft of variety and depth, seemingly unimproved. Even speculation concerning the potential acquisition of Robin van Persie, the Premier League’s top scorer last term, has polarised opinion; such is the Dutchman’s inability to mask the team’s most deep-rooted deficiencies.

Arguably the most engrossing stories to emerge from Old Trafford relate to the Glazer family’s much maligned attempt to float part of the club on the New York Stock Exchange, while still pocketing more of the proceeds than will be devoted to reducing United’s insidious debt. Yet, despite the club’s recent anguish, and its future shrouded in doubt, there still remains scope for optimism.

This optimism begins with hope for desperately needed reform. The detrimental nature of the Glazers’ ownership was already well known, but renewed outrage in the face of their Initial Public Offering (IPO) in New York has reinvigorated opposition at a time when the family are looking more vulnerable than ever.

The family’s US-based businesses continue to haemorrhage money, while rumours of a rift within the family persist; the Sunday Times reported this week that of the six children to whom Malcolm has gifted control of United, three “want to sell their shares to concentrate on other ventures.” Even if tales of a family dispute prove untrue, the Glazers are still faced with the dilemma of somehow generating the capital necessary to prop up their failing businesses elsewhere.

Thus it appears the success of the proposed IPO, expected to be launched later this week, is fundamental to the Glazers’ continued ownership of United. Should it fail to deliver the cash injection hoped for, the Americans may well be forced to consider selling the club, or at least settle for relinquishing a much larger share of control.

And if the reports disseminated by a number of renowned forecasters are to be trusted, it is hardly inconceivable that the IPO will fail; the Financial Times damningly opined that the Glazers believe “investors are so credulous that they will hand over their money without being offered a financially persuasive argument or even the pretence of good corporate governance practice,” while analyst house Morningstar has valued potential shares at between $6 and $10 less than the amount targeted.

Though it is true that news ‘leaked’ from inside the club contradicts this position, anybody familiar with United’s increasingly lacklustre attempts to sell season tickets will rightly be sceptical when the world is told that the IPO is already oversubscribed.

The potential difficulty the Glazers face has not been lost on United fans, with the all-espousing Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) avidly vocalising its plans to test the family’s resolve. Having developed a reputation for being somewhat passive in its previous attempts to force the Glazers from Old Trafford, the group headed by Duncan Drasdo stepped up its efforts this week, as it facilitated the dispatch of over one million emails to potential backers of the IPO and club sponsors.

More significantly, MUST released a statement on Tuesday calling for the worldwide boycott of all products and services of those same sponsors. Though such an appeal is highly ambitious, with results unlikely to materialise, it is a step in the right direction; the only way United fans can gain leverage over the Glazers is to hurt the family’s revenue streams until they are forced to sell. This is a goal ordinary fans can only achieve collectively, through mass boycott.

Aided by Blue State Digital, the marketing firm used by Barrack Obama during his first electoral campaign, MUST now provides a figurehead more widely received than the fanzines and online forums that were previously alone in calling for belligerent action. If MUST’s growing global presence proves enough to intimidate the Glazers’ financial advocates and allies even slightly, it may be enough to stifle the IPO, forcing the hand of the Americans.

The infamous figure of 659 million supporters, touted at every possible opportunity in the build-up to floatation, is so significant because it is through these supporters that the club stands to generate revenue.

Should a scenario arise where the Glazers are not able to sell on their own terms, particularly if the catalyst for such a scenario was supporter action against the family, it is unimaginable that new investors would not seek to rebuild the broken relationship between the club’s fans and its owners. A model of the club whereby fan ownership is a realistic possibility may once again emerge.

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  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Well, I don’t know how accurate this article is… but I must admit, it cheered me up a bit.

    And when it comes to the Glazers, schadenfreude is better than watching United these days.

  • BiscuitBarrell

    I’m not buying a Chevrolet under any circumstances anyway.

  • Denton Davey

    “if the reports disseminated by a number of renowned forecasters are to be trusted, it is hardly inconceivable that the IPO will fail the Financial Times damningly opined that the Glazers believe “investors are so credulous that they will hand over their money without being offered a financially persuasive argument or even the pretence of good corporate governance practice,” while analyst house Morningstar has valued potential shares at between $6 and $10 less than the amount targeted.”

    On the other hand, The Guardian Online reports:

    “Wall Street sources said that the United share offer has been oversubscribed by investors, although it is not yet clear what price they agreed to pay. “The book is looking pretty solid,” one source confirmed. “It’s covered.” ”

    Which report is true ? We’ll find out in a few days’ time.

    But if the Guardian report is true then what will Anders Red, MUST and Duncan Drasdo do in their spare time ?

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

      Denton – not sure that they’re mutually exclusive. Almost every analyst quoted on this says it’s a bad investment, over-priced, with poor returns. How could it not be… no dividends on an annual growth of around 7%.

      But it seems that this isn’t the big mutual fund community buying into the IPO. The Glazers’ strategy of selling to second tier investors who are blinded by the ‘brand’ and the glamour is seemingly working for them.

      It’s a taudry back street market where some petty criminal types are flogging dodgy porno DVDs.

  • Damian Garside

    Keeping with the reasons to be cheerful theme: if shares and part control is relinquished by the Glazer family and a new kind of inclusive governance is introduced… how are we going to celebrate online here at Rant?

    I love the smell of wintergreen in the morning, it is the smell of victory.

    Oh, Moura going to PSG: now I don’t have to eat my hat.

    • ja

      Part control? The shares being sold have 1/10 the voting rights of the Glazer family owned shares. The JOBS classification means they dont have to disclose much finanical information, Cayman Island secrecy. Once the bonds are redeemed, virtually no useful financial info will be passed into the public domain. It was only the bond prospectus that revealed how much the glazers had taken from the club. From 2013 on, noone will have a clue about any figures apart from educated guesswork.
      Apparently they gave out manu (must call them that now) footballs and hats to the punters who attended the roadshow. That seems to have done the trick.

  • Pikey McScum

    Ed said:
    It’s a taudry back street market where some petty criminal types are flogging dodgy porno DVDs.

    Which reminds me – your order’s in. You want them posted or are you picking them up like last time?

  • RedAlert260599

    My glass is half empty. If this IPO is successful we are fucking fucked and all we will have to look forward to is years of this same old shite. – Thanks to the “real” fans who can’t even give up their half time pint, never mind their season ticket.

  • Damian Garside

    Are any of the players in the dodgy porno DVDs? Go on, you can tell us.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    The Glazers are fuckin clever… they never intended for smart investors to buy these shares… they knew dumb fuck United fans would jump at the chance for a wee piece of United… even a relatively worthless piece… they’ll frame their share certificate and hang it on the wall, beside their “99 Treble Team” poster.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • Damian Garside

    Worst case scenario:

    Time-travel special: 
    Sports page headline 9 August 2027

    United Back to Meet Local Rivals

    Back from their whirlwind thirteen-match goodwill and credit card tour of Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands a relieved Manchester United squad touched down at Manchester International Airport yesterday afternoon and rushed to Carrington training centre in order to prepare for their start-of-the- season home match against local rivals Altrincham. Long-serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson who will turn 86 this year… 

  • Mark Lawrenson’s Tash

    The Glazers understand Manchester United fans better than the fans know themselves. The reality is, football fans are stupid for the most part.

    They’re moronic sheep and believe they have a stake in the club, whereas the club is nothing but a corporate vehicle for screwing money out of people through ticket and merchandise sales. Look how obvious it is that they’re screwing everyone over, and yet you’ll see Old Trafford rammed with idiots who continue to hand over their cash to these people, with Fergie providing the ‘value in the market’ front for their unscrupulous behaviour.

    This is survival of the fittest and the Glazers are most definitely going to be the survivors here.

  • Denton Davey

    Alfonso Bedoya @ 10:25: “they knew dumb fuck United fans would jump at the chance for a wee piece of United… even a relatively worthless piece… they’ll frame their share certificate and hang it on the wall, beside their “99 Treble Team” poster.”

    Yeah, but….from early reports it seems that the “institutional investors” have already gobbled up ALL the shares on offer, at the price demanded in the IPO.

    I don’t understand why anyone would make this investment in serious ca$h since they won’t get dividends and they won’t have any significant say in how the club is run. The only possible explanation – apart from “dumb fuck United fans” – is that they have been impressed with the constant increases in commercial revenues and the prospect for greater increases in the value of MUFC as new sources of revenue are tapped.

    By the way, would you feel better about MUFC economics if Qatari Investments had purchased the club a couple of years ago, giving the Glazers a mere 300 % return on their investment in a five year ownership cycle BUT giving SAF the funds to purchase Lucas Moura, Ibra, Thiago Silva and the like ?

  • colin
    • Damian Garside

      Thanks for the video link. Very interesting and disconcerting: since the institutions are giving this one a miss it seems what they appear to require is the investment of the millions of fans (read “suckers”).

  • BiscuitBarrell

    Dropping the price already. Says it all.

  • Damian Garside

    Maybe a time will come when you have to show your share certificate to get into OT on match day.

  • colin