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Manchester United’s Mumbai supporters react to club owner's decision to work on Fan Share Scheme

Updated on: 12 June,2021 06:04 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto |

The Glazer family, who are the current owners of the Manchester United football club recently offered the fans the possibility of getting shares in the team. While what ensues is yet to be seen, city-based fans aren’t convinced especially after the recent European Super League debacle

Manchester United’s Mumbai supporters react to club owner's decision to work on Fan Share Scheme

Supporters protest against Manchester United's owners, outside the Old Trafford stadium ahead of their match against Liverpool on May 2, 2021. Photo: AFP

The English Premier League may be over for the season but the off-season drama has only just begun for top-flight club Manchester United. Amidst transfer news, fans are dealing with their tumultuous relationship with the Glazer family, who took over as the owners of the club in 2005. It has worsened especially after the European Super League (ESL) fiasco. While the owners of the Red Devils initially agreed to be a part of the league, they opted out shortly after facing criticism from fans around the world. 

A few days ago, Joel Glazer, who is in charge of day-to-day operations, spoke to the Fan's Forum and said they will be considering opening up shares for fans. He said they want to work together with the fans to come up with the best solution. He added that it is going to be complicated because they are a public company and the club has many shareholders but they are ready to start, British GQ reported. 

Now, the club has started a dialogue with the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) to create a Fan Advisory Board and a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme. It will each carry the same voting rights as the shares owned by the Glazer family, according to the club’s official statement on the issue.. 

Mid-day reached out to the club’s fans in the city to understand what they think about it. However, they are not interested in buying the whole deal – shares and his new route to get the support of the fans.

Glazers and the fans 
City-based banker Tenzing Lhonden believes it simply does not mean anything because the fans want something completely different. “I think fans simply want the Glazers out and even though they have opened up to the fan shares idea, it will be best if they are not associated with the club.” 

He adds, “It was evident in the match between Manchester United and Liverpool. It had to be cancelled because fans protested outside and inside the stadium and even held a sign #GlazersOut. It is not only that but difference in opinion between the owners, management and the fans about the purchase of player Jadon Sancho in the current transfer window, which in my opinion isn’t really a good sign.” 

Aditya Devavrat, another fan in the city also shares Lhonden’s sentiment and expresses his dislike for the Glazer’s and the way they work. He thinks that they’re only trying to please the fans after the protests and they're in damage-control mode after the ESL collapsed. 

Unsurprisingly, Devavrat traces the friction between the owners and the club when they took over 16 years ago. He explains, “The protests against the Glazers have been ongoing ever since they took over, but the intensity has ebbed and flowed and this is one of those moments where it's definitely bubbled over, and the Glazers are reacting to it. Unlike the green and gold campaign of 2010, it's much harder for the Glazers to brush it off.” 

Manchester United supporters protest against the club's owners outside the Old Trafford stadium, days after the club signed up and pulled out of the European Super League. Photo: AFP

“Fans singing anti-Glazer chants while wearing symbolic scarves are sadly easier to ignore. Demonstrations outside the stadium, that end up getting a game postponed, with some fans even getting onto the pitch, have forced the Glazers to listen and respond, and talking about fan shares now could just be a way of managing that anger,” he adds. 

However, Devavrat is keeping a close eye on the latest announcement about letting fans own shares, and to see if the Glazers will actually follow through with it. “It would be a great step, regardless of how it has come about,” says the 30-year-old, who has been a fan of the Red Devils for the last 17 years. 

All about business 
On the other hand, Zahid Farooqi reminds that it is not only about the support but also about the business end of things. Fans were weary of the Glazers when they took over since it gave them majority stake in the club and automatically spelled trouble for supporters. He says, “The protests by fans have fallen on deaf years in the past. Glazers have never tried to connect with fans and are only compounding on the debt of the club and taking dividends at every opportunity.” 

Farooqi echoes Lhonden’s feeling and simply says that the owners will not offer shares to the fans. The 31-year-old, who has been a fan for the last 21 years explains, “They’re way too self-centred and do not really care about what the fans want, or believe. As long as they’re getting their dividends, they’re happy. This is just a ploy to get on the good side, starting with an appearance in the fan forum, which still left questions unanswered.”

However, he believes that a few signings this season and spending about 150 million euros this season could make the fans forget about it all momentarily and be a win-win situation for both. 

The role of fans in the club’s decisions isn’t a new discussion for the club and has been bubbling for quite some time. The ESL has triggered the current move but Karn Rateria says it was only waiting to happen. With the severed relationship between the fans and the owners, it is only ‘face-saving’ for them, he says. “It will be interesting to see what voting rights fans will having if this comes through. The owners have said they will have equal rights as the board but it is not necessary that they will be able to vote on all topics. We have seen that with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs. It will have to be seen if fans are allowed to vote on financial matters and if they can bring up votes to help change the financial situation,” notes Rateria. 

“It only seems farcical because of the current situation and so their actions need to speak louder than the words,” concludes the 29-year-old, who has been a fan of the club for the last 20 years, clearly speaking for all fans in the city. 

Also Read: Six EPL clubs agree on financial settlement over Super League

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