By the summer of 2005, the [Glazer family] had agreed to hand over $1.3 billion to take over 98 percent of the club. Now they had everyone’s attention. Malcolm signed off on the deal without even traveling to England, dispatching his sons Joel and Avram instead. Waiting to welcome them to Old Trafford were several hundred fans changing, “Die, Glazers, die!” — Excerpt from “The Club: How the English Premier League Became the Wildest, Richest, Most Disruptive Force in Sports”
Things haven’t improved since the moment the family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers purchased Manchester United, rated the second most valuable sports team in the world.
As the American owners of the Premier League team have overpaid for underperforming players and repeated managerial changes since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, fans have grown increasingly disgruntled, so much so that they’ve taken to Twitter this month for a #GlazersOut campaign.
“We want owners who have the same priorities as supporters,” one fan wrote. “That’s what we have always had as our primary objective and clearly that requires current owners to sell so #GlazersOut is nothing new for us — but how that is achieved is key.”
The storied club, winner of the league championship 20 times, has not won the title since the 2012-13 season, and hasn’t appeared in a Champions League Final since 2011. Fans have watched in anger as Manchester City and other rival teams have been on the rise while United, like its Old Trafford home, has fallen into disrepair.
“There is a scene in ‘Fawlty Towers’ when one of the customers is checking out of the hotel and wants to tell Basil how much he has enjoyed his stay,” the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor wrote in April, referencing the British comedy. “So much, in fact, that he passes on what he thinks is a dead cert for the afternoon race at Exeter and puts a few coins into the tip box on his way to the door. At which point Sybil appears and Basil turns to his wife with a slightly startled expression on his face. ‘Satisfied customer,’ he explains. ‘We should have him stuffed.’
“If the Glazer family have spent long enough in England to understand that kind of humor, you wonder whether Manchester United’s owners would appreciate that line. They, too, don’t get many satisfied customers, which probably should not come as a surprise given the way they run the club and the mountains of debt they have stacked up in the process. Or the way, perhaps, they promised to keep an open line of communications and, 14 years on, we have not heard a peep from them since.”
The Glazers’ ownership, conducted mostly in absentia, is one issue. Another is the debt the team has incurred. The team was purchased by the late Malcolm Glazer for about $1.4 billion, with about $1 billion of that figure borrowed. According to the Tampa Bay Times, it has about $400 million in net debt, according to the club’s March financial report, but it has paid shareholders tens of millions of dollars in dividends, mainly to the six Glazer siblings. In addition, it has paid tens of millions of dollars in directors fees, mostly to the Glazer siblings.
After finishing sixth in the Premier League with a 19-10-9 record last season, the team faces the prospect of trying to retain Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and David de Gea on a budget of roughly $127 million given to Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. All three stars have been linked with moves away from Old Trafford this summer.
Fans have revolted against the Glazers’ rule before and, as Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg write in the 2018 book “The Club,” the family has taken such uprisings “in stride.” In their “few public statements,” they’ve indicated “they were in English soccer for the long haul. That didn’t seem to reassure anyone.”
Apparently it still doesn’t.
Read more from The Post: