Around 5,000 fans – perhaps up to 10,000 – turned out for the anti-Glazer protest march held before Manchester United’s fixture with Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. With disappointment palpable over the Red Knight’s failure to launch a bid for the club this summer, the march was in part an attempt to kick-start the protest movement.
Indeed, with green and gold now largely a busted-flush the real question is how to mobilise the thousands of match going fans and millions worldwide against the Glazer regime.
‘Forever in your debt’ read one banner, while another declared that the club’s principal sponsor, AON, is an acronym for Americans Out Now. Smoke from green and gold flares rose high into the air and thousands chanted the now well versed refrain that ‘Glazer is going to die’ as fans gathered for the start outside the Toll Gate Inn, Trafford Bar.
Indeed, Saturday’s march confirmed one thing if nothing else: the protest movement is as passionate as it ever.
Yet, even among the crowd, United in its aim to rid the club of the Glazer family, diversity of cause was clear. Saturday’s march included banners with the old Love United Hate Glazer moniker, green and gold scarves and flares were widespread, and the Fight Against Glazer march logo was evident, among a plethora of other slogans and chants.
Nothing wrong with that of course, unless that very diversity provides a barrier to decisive action. Diverse opinion – and therefore action – has been the major characteristic of the protest against the Americans for some time.
Perhaps the greatest failure of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) and Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA), despite mobilising fans to great effect last season, is one of leadership. Green and gold offered a central hook for collective anger over the Glazer regime and perhaps for the first time since the 2005 takeover supporters were mobilised with a unity of thought.
The movement forced a one-time freeze in season ticket prices and – for the time being – a delay in the Glazer family’s plan to fleece United of £125 million in dividends.
The failure of green and gold is, and will always be, that of tangible output; the Glazer cancer rolls on unabated. It’s why so many United supporters felt so disappointed that a bid for the club did not materialise this summer. Investment in a cause bares a return only in decisive change. That day has not yet come.
Those helping to organise the march on Saturday trumpeted a unifying theme – United Against Glazer. There is much to admire in the aims of a loose group of people in organising a large-scale event at relatively short notice. The turnout was good given that no single event had sparked a further outpouring of anger, as the Glazers’ bond document did last January.
Despite this, there is still no unified strategy to rid the club of the Glazer family, which is causing so much lasting damage to the club. After all, collective anger is not the same as conjoint and organised action.
Some fans permanently walked away to found FC United, the Red Rebel team that has made the first round of the FA Cup this season and is raising funds for its own £3.5 million stadium in central Manchester. Others – perhaps as many as 50,000 – have given up their season tickets since 2005, some, such as On The Road author Daniel Harris have boycotted home matches.
These actions, for the most part, were the result of personal not collective response driven by supporters’ groups.
We have been here before. 10,000 marched against Glazer in May 2005 to little effect, even if there was an amusing outcome, with the family forced to retreat to the sanctity of a Greater Manchester Police meatwagon.
The lack of major media coverage of Saturday’s march says much too.
Then there is, of course, some irony in United supporters protesting before a Premier League match, presumably walking straight into Old Trafford afterwards and handing over up to £49 to Glazer family for the pleasure.
That is the rub. While United supporters continue to underpin the Glazer business model, rowdy protest is little more than a collective expression of anger. Heartfelt and necessary, but ultimately unlikely to unseat the family.
It is the circle that United supporters have not squared since the Glazers walked into Old Trafford five years ago.
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Photo’s courtesy of Jeremy Knowles, www.jjphotos.co.uk