Tag Green and Gold

Tag Green and Gold

Fergie continues Glazer PR battle as interest rate rises

August 15, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 104 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has defended the Glazer family, warning Manchester United’s fans that continued unrest in the stands could disrupt the team. The warning, pre-briefed from his United Review programme notes for the match against Newcastle United tomorrow night, is a repetition of the Scot’s support for the Glazer family since the May 2005 takeover.

Ferguson, who offers no explanation of how protests in the stand have harmed the team to date, has consistently defended the family despite overwhelming financial evidence that that the Americans’ ownership of the club is costing millions in interest, loans, dividends and management fees annually.

Indeed, Ferguson’s tirade comes on the eve of the Glazer family’s Payment in Kind (PiK) debt interest rate rising, as widely expected, to an onerous 16.25 per cent per annum. The rise will add an additional £5 million in interest to a PIK debt that will hit £269 million next year.

“One situation clouds the new season and that is the continued opposition to the Glazer family,” Ferguson told club mouthpiece United Review.

“I have no problem with the green and gold campaign. Fans are entitled to protest as they see fit. But not to the detriment of the team.

“The fact is that the Glazer family own Manchester United and until such time as they decide they want to sell, they will stay as owners regardless of the opposition.

“So it comes down to the extent of the protest. What I don’t want to see is Manchester United mired in so much controversy that it deflects our purpose of winning matches.”

Ferguson sees no irony in the argument, even though the Scot’s ‘controversial’ dispute with John Magnier in 2004 over breeding rights for the racehourse Rock of Gibraltar, which was part-owned by the United manager, precipitated the sale by the Irishman of his shares in the club to the Glazer family.

Ferguson’s name was dropped from the list of owners when Rock of Gilbraltar, which won a record seven Group One races as a three-year-old, went to stud. The Scot challenged the decision, prompting a battle that was saved from court at the eleventh hour when the United manager accepted an offer of £2.5 million to cover stud fees for the horse.

The horse dispute is not the only controversial moment involving the Scot of course, with regular rants at referees – incurring a four match FA touchline ban last season for the Scot’s “unfit” jibe at Alun Wiley – fellow managers, the media, officialdom and even supporters.

Despite – or perhaps because of – Ferguson’s pivotal and unforgivable role in the highly leveraged takeover, the United manager has called for unity behind the Glazer family, which has allowed a net transfer budget of minus £47.5 million over the past two seasons.

“Whenever we have had success it has been a collective effort with everyone united – management, players and fans. How many times have I commented in the past about the need to pull together?” Ferguson continues, demonstrating beyond doubt if any remained, which side of this particular fence the manager lies.

“There is no doubt that players respond and relish support. We have had some great European nights at Old Trafford and I wouldn’t like to see anything develop that would diminish that kind of backing.

“I see that one of the protest groups has come up with a slogan along the lines of “New Season, Same Goal”.

“I know what they have in mind but I just wish they meant that once again we will all be united, busting a gut to win something big; in that sense it is not a bad slogan.”

Strange then that analysis by the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA) shows that United won more games and scored more goals since the launch of the Green & Gold protest movement in January this year.

IMUSA demonstrates that United scored a net average of a goal and a half more per game following the protest’s start than before. Coincidence perhaps but there is little doubt that the movement heightened the often flat atmosphere at Old Trafford last season.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times confirms today what many analysts had predicted in January – that the interest rate on the PiK debt will rise from August. The PiK debt, standing at £202 million when last announced, will rise to more than £269 million in the coming months because the family has failed to keep the club’s debts below the level required under the terms of the loan.

For that reason alone the family issued its £504 million bond in January, which doubled the interest rate on the club’s senior debt but enables the Glazers to take significant amounts of cash out of the club in dividends, management fees and loans.

Indeed, the Glazers’ PiK debt must be paid off in full by 2017 when it will be worth more than £600 million. If the family doesn’t pay down the debt by that date it will hand over the club to three New York based hedge funds

That’s one kind of unity that Ferguson probably doesn’t want.

Gill lashes out at fans as sales dept make threats

May 28, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 5 comments

David Gill has launched another scathing attack on Manchester United’s green and gold protest campaign, dismissing the scarf wearing supporters as a minority while predicting its demise. Speaking to the Independent newspaper, Gill argues that fans do not understand the protest and are never happy despite success.

Gill’s interview comes as United’s commercial department warns executive seat holders not to delay renewing, with the deadline looming on 31 May. Published today, it is not the first time United’s chief has hit out at the green and gold campaign but the strength of the Surrey-born ceo’s attack may take supporters by surprise.

“I think that [the green and gold] minority will go away. I see people from Asia walking out of the megastore with a red and white scarf on and they just assume they [green and gold] are official scarves and go and buy one,” Gill told the Independent, presumably from the safety of his Old Trafford office and not the forecourt.

“I think there is an element of that. A lot of people understand what it means but a lot of them don’t.”

Gill’s tactic to dismiss the protests, claim the club’s finances are sound and suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson has money to spend in the transfer market is not new. Indeed, the ceo’s interview comes a week after chief of staff Edward Woodward invited leading national journalists to meet at United’s commercial offices in Pall Mall, London.

“They are not going to change their opinion even if we win three Champions League titles in a row,” adds Gill of the 160,000 fans that have joined the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) this season.

“We couldn’t have been much more successful in the last three years: we won the league, we were Champions League winners and runners-up and we won the Carling Cup, but they are never going to be happy.”

United finished second to Chelsea this season, while losing in the Champions League quarter-finals – for which Gill took a public dressing down by his American paymasters – and third division Leeds United dumped the reds out of the FA Cup.

With the season ticket and executive renewal deadline in the next fortnight, box holders yesterday received a letter boasting of a significant hospitality waiting list. Stating that the letter “is a warning not a threat” United’s Head of Client Relations claims that hospitality facilities “will be released to the waiting list on 1 June.”

Aside from the unfortunately threatening tone, it is odd that the bond prospectus released in January notes significant unoccupied executive facilities at Old Trafford last season, with the worldwide recession hitting the club hard.

“For the 2009/10 season, reduced demand for executive and box seats has resulted in approximately 16% of those facilities (by value) remaining unsold as at 30 September 2009, compared with just over 12% unsold at the same stage in the 2008/09 season,” the club told potential investors.

This comes as the club released its Q3 financial results through Manchester United Finance plc, showing cash reserves of more than £95 million on a sharp increase in year-on-year Champions League media revenues.

While many feared the Glazer family would exercise its option to pay down Payment in Kind (PiK) debt most analysts now expect this to come after the end of the financial year on 30 June, meaning the results will not be released until August 2010. Well after the 13 June season ticket renewal deadline.

The results showed year-on-year gross debt down at £520.9 million, although the quarter-on-quarter debt was up, reflecting conversion of bank to bond debt. This does not include the PiK debt, which totals more than £200 million and will be paid down from club cash reserves.

The results also coincide with another reiteration in the Glazers’ stance that the club is not for sale.

“The Board notes recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United. The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers,” said a club statement.

With United’s effective debt now at more than £720 million supporters can only hope the family changes its mind, perhaps by the time the BBC’s Panorama programme on the club’s spiralling debt goes live on 7 June.

Otherwise fans may need to wait for UEFA’s financial fair play regulations to kick in for the 2015-16 season, which include the provision to exclude from competition any club with net debt greater than revenues. Net debt is gross minus liquid assets, including cash.

United’s net debt is more than £425 million with revenues at £278 million for the last reported full financial year.

Poll: Should David Gill resign now?

May 28, 2010 Tags: , Polls 35 comments

David Gill, the Manchester United ceo, has launched an extraordinary attack on thousands of fans who wear green and gold at Old Trafford, dismissing scarf wearing supporters as a “minority” who “don’t understand” why they’re protesting and will “never be happy.” It’s not the first time Gill has lashed out at the fans he no longer speaks to.

But with other ceo who consistently insults his customers normally asked to resign, should Gill now go?

Should David Gill resign now?

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IMUSA and club clash over protests

May 4, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 1 comment

Manchester United and the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA) clashed this week over ongoing green and gold protests. Fans’ groups have long accused CES security of match-day bullying tactics, with now IMUSA now claiming the firm refused fans entry to a reserves match at Old Trafford this week.

United’s second string played Aston Villa at Old Trafford in the reserve league play-off on Monday night, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s young reds winning out on penalties following a 3-3 draw in 90 minutes.

IMUSA has accused CES staff of refusing some supporters entry to the match, which attracted a crowd of around 4,000, because of involvement in the protests.

“Many fans were prevented from seeing their victory as large groups of CES stopped people in their two’s and three’s from gaining entry because of their supposed involvement in protests on other occasions,” claimed an IMUSA statement this week.

“We are also told that the local police intelligence officer joined in with this intimidation, giving people ‘verbal warnings’ for having engaged in legitimate peaceful protests at other matches.

“This same officer told whoever cared to listen that ‘he didn’t need a reason’ when asked why he was evicting a small number of young teenagers from the ground.”

IMUSA has previously accused the club of ejecting supporters from Old Trafford for wearing green and gold scarfs or bringing anti-Glazer protest banners to Old Trafford on match-days.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) backed the claim, saying that supporters who had previously taken part in peaceful
protests against the Glazers ownership were refused entry to the reserves game agai

“Supporters were also ejected from the stadium after being identified from video and photographic footage of previous protests,” MUST claimed on its website today.

“We understand that photographs of about 20 individuals were circulated to security personnel with orders to intercept them and deny them entry.”

CES previously fired a staff member, who had worked match-days at Old Trafford for more than 18 years, for returning a confiscated ‘Love United Hate Glazer’ banner to supporters and a member of the catering staff lost his job for wearing a green and gold scarf.

United denied restricting protests today, claiming that discussions between IMUSA and the club had resulted in an agreement about how banners could be used on match-days at Old Trafford.

“As a result of meetings between the club and IMUSA, banners are allowed at Old Trafford that conform to our regulations,” a faceless United spokesman told newspapers today.

“Fans are free to protest providing it is in a peaceful way.”

The club’s chief executive officer, David Gill, reiterated the club’s stance by claiming that nobody at the club will  stop the protest movement, which has grown hugely since the Glazer family released its bond prospectus in January.

With barely a red scarf in sight on match-days, Gill’s is a position of practicality, with even CES’ notorious staff unable to eject 75,000 Old Trafford spectators. Indeed, IMUSA claims that 99 per cent of supporters now back a change in ownership at the club, with a Red Knights bid for the club expected in June.

“If your question is ‘would I prefer all red and white instead of gold and green when you have a full stadium and you are playing host to famous opposition’, of course I would,” Gill told Rollin’ Reds magazine.

“If the question is ‘would I prefer not to look out of my office and see the scarves they are selling on the street’, of course I’d prefer that. But as Alex has said, people have a right to protest.”

Gill, no doubt be relieved that the rather less famous Stoke City visit Old Trafford for the season’s final game on Sunday, will face a sea of anti-Glazer placards planned by MUST for the match.

In the meantime, with season ticket renewal forms due at the club by 13 June, Gill continues to insist that Sir Alex Ferguson has money available to spend in the transfer market this summer.

He’s right – but only if you count United’s £75 million bank overdraft facility.

Whether supporters who disagree with the ceo are allowed back into Old Trafford to see the fabled new signings is another matter altogether.

FC United lights way with return to spiritual home

March 25, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion No comments

FC United of Manchester is to build a 5,000 seat stadium in Newton Heath – the birthplace of modern Manchester United. Disaffected supporters set up FC United after the Glazers’ takeover in 2005, with games being played at Bury’s Gigg Lane this season. The new ground will offer a permanent home for the Red Rebels.

The democratic supporter-owned and run club proposes to include community sports facilities at the stadium, which has been given an ‘amber’ light by Manchester City Council. The stadium, which requires £3.5 million in funding, is to be built at the existing Ten Acres Lane sports ground (above) in the North East of the city.

“FC United, New East Manchester and Manchester City Council have been working closely over the past two years to develop the plans and consultation will now progress with local residents, community groups and FC United members who own the club,” said a club statement today.

“FC United is working to secure the finance for the £3.5m development, which will include a public appeal for donations, a Community Shares issue and grant funding.”

Managed by Karl Marginson, FC United lies 12th in the Unibond League Premier Division, which is the seventh rung of the football pyramid, following three promotions in five years. Despite just missing out on a spot in the Unibond play-offs last season the club has failed to progress on the pitch this campaign.

FC United eschews shirt sponsorship as a direct result of the perceived over-commercialisation of football that took place at United in the lead-up to the Glazer takeover. But renting a stadium costs the club around £3,000 per match – a situation General Manager Andy Walsh is keen to change.

“The announcement will be a big boost to the club and we also want the development to be of benefit to Newton Heath, the discussions with the council have been very positive and we are grateful for their support,” added Walsh.

“The significance of this location is historical while it will also showcase a new model of facility development, based on football supporter ownership and community involvement.”

The Ten Acres Lane stadium will be ready by the 2012/13 season said the club today. FC United averages crowds of just under 2,000, although nearly 3,000 saw the side’s first FA Cup tie earlier this season. The new ground may even attract a greater local following given the level of dissatisfaction at Old Trafford with the Glazer family’s ownership.

Not that FC United supporters have eschewed all affinity with big brother just six miles across town. Green and gold is regularly seen at FC’s matches, although the side plays in a very traditional red and white kit.

Perhaps most pertinently the club has kept ticket prices to a minimum, with a “pay-what-you-can-afford” policy meaning season tickets cost from £90 for adults and £21 for children.

With no little irony, FC United’s is a model of club ownership that the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) is keen to follow should a Red Knights’ backed bid prove successful in the coming months.

United freezes prices, MUST claim victory

March 24, 2010 Tags: , , , Opinion 3 comments

Manchester United has confirmed ticket prices will remain static for next season in a short statement on the club’s website. United, the only Premier League club to raise ticket prices this year, is under severe pressure from the rapidly growing supporters’ protest movement, aimed at removing the Glazer family from the club.

The club is more than £716.5 million in debt according to the latest figures and under pressure to increase revenues. While the move to freeze prices is a surprise it represents a cost to the Glazer family of just over £1 million based on the £1-per-match increase for 2009/10.

“Manchester United has decided to freeze the prices of its Season Tickets for the 2010/11 season,” said a statement on ManUtd.com.

“This means that the cost per home match for Season Ticket holders and One United members remains between £27 and £49.”

Ticket prices have increased by 48 per cent on average since the Glazer family’s leveraged buyout in 2005 – more than a third above the rate of inflation for a comparable period.

Duncan Drasdo, ceo of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST), reacted by claiming victory over the Glazer family.

“There’s no way that the owners would have done anything than increase prices significantly if the campaign hadn’t grown,” added Drasdo, whose has seen MUST membership increase from 34,000 in January to 145,000 today.

“The green and gold in the stands has obviously got the people in Tampa rattled and they’re trying to buy off supporters. I don’t believe that will happen.

“We know that 75 pence in every pound of profit leaves the club. The Glazers are very bad for the club. We’ve had huge ticket prices in the past so a freeze now is just a freeze at very high prices.”

Anger at increasing ticket prices has led to speculation that up to 60 per cent of United season ticket holders will not renew for 2010/11. Although that seems wide of the mark, a non-renewal rate of 10,000 seats will surprise few, with empty spaces in Old Trafford at matches this season for the first time in nearly two decades.

“We’ll see a lot more people choosing to pay only for the matches they want to attend and not buying season tickets,” added Drasdo, whose organisation is supportive of the so-called Red Knights’ bid to buy the club in the coming months.

“We want the Red Knights to come forward with plans and provided they’re in the interest of the fans and the football club then we’d like those plans to turn into an offer the Glazers can’t refuse.”

Prices at Old Trafford will range from £27 behind the goal in the Stretford End or ‘K’ Stand, to £49 in the North and South stands. Tickets are also up to £10 more expensive for Champions League matches, with no discounts for less popular Carling Cup fixtures.

Competition: Win a Green & Gold Scarf

March 23, 2010 Tags: , Shorts 9 comments

If you don’t already have a green and gold anti-Glazer protest scarf, why not? Fear not – United Rant is giving away five green and gold scarves to our Twitter followers. Win this official Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) product by tweeting this page. Rant will announce the winners, drawn at random, on 7 April 2010.

How to enter

  • Tweet the phrase “Go green & gold with @unitedrant – http://bit.ly/9bAQTM #mufc #manutd #united”
  • Competition closes on 6 April 2010 and five readers, chosen at random, will win
  • No purchase is necessary but if you don’t win go buy a scarf at the MUST shop – better still, buy one anyway
  • Open to readers worldwide

In the meantime make sure you join MUST today.

Minister supports green and gold

March 15, 2010 Tags: , , Shorts 2 comments

Government minister Andy Burnham has given his backing to Manchester United’s grassroots green and gold campaign to oust the hated Glazer family from the club. The campaign, backed by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST), has led to thousands of match-going fans wearing the colours at Old Trafford in recent weeks.

BBC Newsnight’s United-supporting journalist Michael Crick reports that Burnham, an Everton fan, wore the scarf at a recent Fabian Society conference in Manchester.

“The green and gold movement is another manifestation of the great campaigning heritage of this city, and long may that continue,” Burnham told Crick.

Burnham was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between January 2008 and June 2009 before a reshuffle took the Liverpool-born MP for Leigh to the Department for Health. He was a key figure behind the formation of Supporters Direct.

The MUST website reported that membership was close to 140,000 on Monday evening.