Call on Manchester United owners to reduce their shareholding in wake of ESL debacle

Manchester United

A new attempt to loosen the grip of the Glazer family on Manchester United has been revealed.

Lord Jim O’Neill and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall have written to United co-chairman Joel Glazer calling for changes to the corporate structure which would give fans more power in the running of the club.

It follows the collapse of the proposed European Super League, including English clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, in the face of universal criticism from within the game and politicians.

Mr Glazer apologised to United fans admitting the board had “got it wrong, and we want to show that we can put things right”.

On Wednesday, Manchester United executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, announced he will leave the club at the end of the year.

Today, Sky News says it has seen the letter from Lord O’Neill and Paul Marshall to the Glazers, which calls on the Glazer family to scrap the club’s New York-listed dual-class share structure and introduce a single class of voting stock.

They should also reduce their combined stake of around 75% to a maximum of 49.9%, which, Lord O’Neill and Sir Paul argue, would “encourage a broader group of investors to consider ownership in the club in the future if they have the same voting rights as everyone else, especially you and your five siblings”.

And they suggest that the Glazers should sell their shares at the original $14 IPO price “as a gesture of your desire to do things right”.

Lord O’Neill – the globally-renowned economist, former chairman of Goldman Sachs and one of the architects of the Northern Powerhouse – and Sir Paul were behind a 2010 bid by the ‘Red Knights’ consortium to wrest control of United from the Glazers in a £1.25bn takeover. However, this was eventually abandoned.

But, in today’s letter, they suggest that the European Super League debacle has driven an even bigger wedge between the Glazers and United fans.

They said this week’s events were “the culmination of your 16 years ownership of the club and is perhaps the strongest example of how you seem have been persistently out of touch with the culture, spirit, indeed, very purpose of Manchester United.

“In your letter, you talk about rebuilding trust with the supporters, which presumes there was trust in existence before the events of last week.

“As you know, others might question whether that trust was ever present. If your stated desire to rebuild trust is sincere, these proposals are the minimum steps you should choose to make,” they said.

Also today, Wall Street giant JP Morgan Chase, which was going to fund the breakaway league, issued a statement saying it had “clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community and how it might impact them in the future”.

It vowed to learn from its experience.

The fall-out of the collapsed attempt to form a breakaway league has led to the possibility of the Government stepping in to rule on football club ownership and to ensure fans have a bigger say in the governance of their clubs.