Three weeks ago, it emerged that my beloved Manchester United were planning a partial flotation on the ‘New York Stock Exchange’ in order to (wait until you hear this) REDUCE OUR DEBTS!
DEBTS? Hang on!? Doesn’t Manchester United have a license to print money?
I’m no expert in these things, although I do recall reading something (on the way to the F.A Cup final in Cardiff in 2005) about some bloke from ‘SAFESTYLE UK’ buying us out, but to be honest I’ve never given it a second thought!? The price of my ticket has gone up (which I put down to inflation), but the trophies seemed to keep on rolling in & we’d signed stars like Bebe & Michael Owen – How was I to know that we were having financial difficulties?
So today I’ve taken time out of my busy schedule (building Birdhouses for the homeless Starlings of Little Hampton) to find out exactly what has happened to all of OUR money.
Apparently, this American ‘dude’ took out a ‘Pay-day loan’ from wonga .com for £790m to buy up all the Manchester United PLC shares (this part I do remember, because I was a bit gutted to when I was forced to sell mine – I had a ‘Manchester United Owners Club’ T-shirt & everything).
In order to take over the club this ‘Uncle Malcolm’ character would have to buy up a lot of ‘steaks’, I’m no expert in butchery either but looking the state of our finances 7 years on – Malcolm certainly knows a thing or twelve about carving things up.
One interesting fact that did come to light, was that the majority of the shares Malcolm needed to complete the deal were in fact purchased from two of Fergie’s mates-
The first mate ‘JP’ had a fallout with Sir Alex over some ‘Horse Semen’ (which left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth). ‘JP’ had a real beef & thought that selling his 28.7% steak to the aforementioned Glazier would be a nice way to get back at the United fans (who had sided with his former friend now foe & fellow foal fancier Fergie) & wash his hands of the whole ‘Semen affair’. Fergie eventually realised that the liquidity of the deal wasn’t clear & took it on the chin.
The second ‘mate’ was a bloke called Dermot Desmond. ‘Double D’ had been quite happy with his 15%. But! When he & the Scottish one clashed over Uniteds pursuit & subsequent purchase of ‘The New Roy Keane’ from Glasgow Celtic. Mr Desmond followed ‘JP’s lead, by selling out just to spite United (it was worth it though, we’d finally found the player who could fill Keano’s boots – they were both size 8).
After adding those shares to his own tranche, he was able to de-list the club from the ‘London Stock Exchange’ & trigger a compulsory buyout clause of the remaining shares.
By September 2005 the take-over was complete, but ‘buying up’ all the remaining shares had used up most of the ‘Wonga’ loan.
The Glazier wasn’t completely stupid though (remember ‘Pay-day’ loans come with interest rates of over 4000% PA) he paid back the loan almost immediately. By splitting the £790m across 10 different Credit cards – which he’d took out in the name of ‘MR REG FOOTBALL’ – using ‘Old Trafford M16 ORA’ as his address (thus using the club as collateral), he saddled United & not himself or his other business interests with the huge debt.
This stroke of genius reduced the annual interest from 4000% to just under 15% PA (to put it simply, around £65,000,000 PER YEAR which is only £180,000 PER DAY).
The main problem with debt is that you have to pay it back (I know!? Ridiculous! They give you a plastic card to procure free stuff & then send you a bill. They should make the ‘paying it back’ part clearer, before normal folk start spending more than they can afford & the country ends up in financial ruin) & that’s what United have been doing for the past 7 years, an estimated £500m in loan repayments & costs.
The club make quite a bit of money from selling Tickets & shirts to fans & also by allowing a select group of brands to put their name alongside the world-renowned name of MANCHESTER UNITED. Companies such as ‘AON’, ‘DHL’, ‘MR POTATO’, ‘DAVE’S CAFÉ’ & the Sale branch of ‘POUNDSTRETCHER’ can now boast that they are Uniteds ‘Commercial partners’.
This revenue along with the TV rights is then used to ‘service’ the debt. Unfortunately, from time to time the cupboard is bare & they have to find the money elsewhere.
During a rough-patch in the summer of 2009, United were forced to pawn a prized possession in order to make their repayments. Cristiano Ronaldo (AKA ‘The Virus’) had to be dragged kicking & Screaming to Manchester Airport & put on a plane to Madrid. He was later sold to ‘Real’ for £80,000,000 (this money was only borrowed by the Glazier as an interest-free short-term loan. The ‘Ronaldo money’ currently sits in a vault at David Gill’s Cheshire mansion until such time we can get Ronaldo to answer his mobile or Fergie finds ‘Value in the Market’ elsewhere).
The sale of Uniteds No/7 angered many fans (the ones who hadn’t already buggered-off to Bury, F’Cum!!) who decided that they’d don the colours of our founding fathersNewton Heath L.Y.R FC as a ‘Visual protest’ to the Glazier. ‘Green & Gold’ scarves became a symbol of the growing unrest at the club & the LUHG campaign gave fans a chance to voice their anger (& bootleg scarf grafters a chance to line their pockets).
Wearing the ‘G&G’ instead of the traditional Red & White, was a way of displaying to the owners that you were ‘Unhappy’!
Unhappy with the way they were using the £45 you’d paid to get into the ground (a ground which had been put up as collateral to leverage their debt only 4 years earlier) on repaying debts & not buying players.
Unhappy with the way they were using the £70 you’d just spent on the new shirt at the ‘Megastore’ to buy ‘Picks’ (which one can only assume they sold to builders on eBay for a small profit).
Unhappy with the fact that they were using using £14 that you’d just spent on 2 ‘Pie n’Pint Combos’ to take ‘Interest-free loans’ out of the club, with little or no chance of them ever being paid back!
This was your opportunity to SHOW THEM.
(Allow me change my tactics at half-time & be serious for a moment. The above isn’t me making light of our current situation. Whenever I write anything about United these days it feels like I’m writing an obituary, & anyone who’s ever written one of those will tell you “If you don’t laugh a little, you’ll cry a lot”).
During the game Vs AC Milan in April 2010 the campaign had reached fever pitch. Some of the Glazers attended the game & with the tie dead & buried at 7-2 (on aggregate) the fans displayed their disdain to staggering effect.
That night for 30 minutes, Old Trafford shook with fervent anger. The ‘Green & Gold’ scarves whirled through the night air creating a Kaleidoscope of colour, the noise was deafening!
To add further power to the fans elbow, David Beckham – One of the most famous men on the planet & a lifelong Red (who was on loan at Milan) – picked up a ‘G&G’ scarf from the hallowed turf & placed it around his neck.
The campaigners had their ‘Money shot’.
The fans skipped out of the ground that night believing that they’d seen a chink of light. They knew that the American owners had seen with their own eyes the level of hatred towards them & their stewardship. They would’ve had to have been deaf not to hear songs about ‘Cutting them up from head to toe’ too!
Unfortunately we woke up the next day to find photographs of these parasitic gnomes pointing towards the ‘Stretford end’ (where the protests were concentrated) & laughing at the huge banners declaring the fans hatred for them & their father.
Herein lies the problem, I bought a ‘Green & Gold’ scarf & I wore it to every game.
I ‘stickered’ lampposts with ‘LOVE UNITED HATE GLAZER’ stickers.
I donated to M.U.S.T, recruited dozens of new members & bought their alternative shirt.
I never took the money from my ‘Shareholders United’ account in 2005 – it still sits in the ‘Phoenix fund’ (more in hope that anticipation).
I even invested in some G&G Adidas Samba……
But I never stopped going to the games; I’ve renewed (2 Season Tickets) twice since then. Despite the fact that I know the only way to get rid of a parasite is to starve it – I simply can’t give up doing something that I love.
If I walk away from United, I’d feel defeated. Even though I know that it’s not the case, even though I know that the only way to stop them buying the club with my money is to withdraw my funds – I can’t do it.
So, I’m part of the problem. Although I won’t sympathise with them, I’ll never make excuses for them & I hate what they’re doing with an unwavering passion, I’m contributing factor because I can’t give up going to Old Trafford, & the worst part is; I think that the Glazer family is 100% aware of this.
I think it’s the reason that they stood laughed that night, they were probably saying to each other:
“You may hate us, but y’all paid to get in here”.
Plenty of Reds have walked away, friends of mine, lads who’d dedicated their entire lives to following United the length & breadth of this country (& beyond). The heart, soul & most importantly the voice of Manchester United who had made the ‘Stretford End’ buzz & sway with noise, passion & colour for decades, have been forced to walk away because they could no longer justify the cost of supporting THEIR CLUB.
BUT! If so many United fans have made the ultimate sacrifice, why aren’t there blocks of empty seats every week? Quite simply because ‘Old Trafford’ is now a viable alternative to ‘Alton Towers’. ‘Visitors’ have replaced ‘Supporters’ & they’re welcomed with open arms.
Think about it, if you were trying to strangle the financial life out of a football club, would you want one ‘supporter’ – who pays for his Season ticket in June & doesn’t so much as buy a programme all season – filling one seat for 26/27 games?
Or would you want 26/27 different families of four – who see their ‘visit’ as a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ & buy everything that they can get their hands on (spending hundreds of pounds in the Megastore in the process) – filling four seats once per season?
Who cares if they don’t actively support the team or have the slightest clue what’s going on? As long as they SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!
You don’t need to ask why your average home game has all the atmosphere of a morgue, or why that palpable hostility & famous siege mentality has all but disappeared –
Have you ever tried singing with a 14” Hotdog in your mouth??
This upcoming flotation (where the cost of a share seems to get you a certificate, a 10% off voucher for the ‘Megastore’ & very little else) is just another loophole. Three weeks ago fans were assured (via the prospectus) that the funds raised would pay-off some of the debt, but in reality all the owners are doing is finding another way to milk the ‘Cash-Cow’ (this time at the expense some very gullible investors).
They’re so crafty that they’ve even registered ‘Manchester United LTD’ in the Cayman Islands, so that any financial irregularities can’t come back to bite them on the arse in their own country.
It’s hard to believe that things are actually getting worse & nobody has a clue where or how it will all end. One thing that we do know is that it should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. The Government stop take-overs on a regular basis, especially hostile ones that have been so heavily opposed (by the people who contribute the most to the finances of said company) & ones which will plunge one of the countries most famous ‘Brands’ into unfathomable debt.
Even if the Government didn’t care what the club, its shareholders or the fans thought at the time, didn’t someone point out that the Glazers ‘plan’ would effect the amount of Tax that they were likely to receive?
Next time a rival fan decides to revel in our plight, inform them that United only pay 6.5% Tax (because of the effect that the debt has on the operating profits) & tell them to compare that to their own wage packet. It may also be worth reminding them, that if they subscribe to ‘SKY SPORTS’ they’re helping to pay off ‘our debt’ more than the average season ticket holder in the Stretford end.
This isn’t just a Man United problem – It’s not even a football problem.
It’s just one big swindle.