Manchester United co-owner outlines plans for fans to build a share stake in club

Joel Glazer (Manchester Utd image)
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Manchester United has set out its vision for a new era of dialogue and consultation with fans, including the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.

Executive co-chairman, Joel Glazer, met with the club’s Fans’ Forum today (June 4) to begin discussions. It was his first Fans’ Forum appearance in 16 years as owner of the club.

In the meeting, he discussed his vision for the club in opening remarks to fan representatives, along with his intentions for investment in Old Trafford and the training ground.

He said: “Our goal is to win every competition we compete in, and we will continue to invest in our academy and in the transfer market to support the manager in an effort to meet the club’s goals.

“As a club we have devoted a lot of time and resources over the last several years updating and further developing our vast global scouting network to adapt to the modern football environment. This is a project that should provide a foundation for long term success in the years to come.

“In addition, as you all know, we have also been focused on growing and developing our women’s team in line with the traditions and values of the club, and we are committed to continuing that process.”

He added: “Old Trafford is at the heart of Manchester United and while we have spent over £100m over the last 10 years on infrastructure projects, we will now accelerate the process of planning much more significant investment and upgrades to the stadium … rest assured, we will consult with supporters throughout the process to end up with a result we can all be proud of.

“The same goes for our training ground. Preliminary planning work is already under way and there will be significant funding available to further enhance our facilities and ensure they remain world class.”

Proposals to strengthen fan representation and the role of fans at the heart of the club were outlined, with a view to further refinement with MUST and the Fans’ Forum. These include:

  • Creation of a Fan Advisory Board to consult with the club’s senior leadership and owners, in addition to a strengthened Fans’ Forum
  • The board will be made up of representatives from the Forum and key fan groups to ensure the fans’ perspective is embedded within the club’s decision making processes
  • The club has initiated a direct dialogue with MUST with the aim of identifying a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme involving a new class of shares which will each carry the same voting rights as the shares owned by the Glazer family. This would establish a foundation for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake and create a new spirit of partnership with the club

Mr Glazer also addressed the topic of the club’s self-sustaining model, saying: “We want this club to always be successful and win trophies. To compete for trophies requires significant investment.

“The commercial growth at the club has helped deliver the revenue which ultimately underpins that investment in a sustainable manner. That approach has allowed us to have among the highest net transfer spend in world football over the last five years and have one of the highest wage bills.

“Also, as a direct result of our commercial business, we have kept ticket prices affordable for all fans and not raised season ticket prices in over 10 years. This is an area that we, as a club, are very proud of.”

Following the meeting, he said: “I was pleased to join the Fans’ Forum to listen to the views of supporters, address their questions, and share ideas on how we can improve the way we work together.

“As owners, we want exactly the same thing as the fans – a successful team and a strong club – and we want to work in partnership to achieve those objectives.

“Fans are the lifeblood of Manchester United and I am personally committed to ensuring that they are given an enhanced voice, through the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.

“The club has been in discussions with MUST regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and has already sought external legal advice on options. Discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.”

The Glazer family has come under intense pressure from fans’ representatives following the club’s aborted involvement in a prospective European Super League.

In April, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea announced plans to join a wider European club base in a breakaway league. But within days they backtracked following vociferous protests from within the game and fans around the country.

Following the U-turn, Manchester United executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, announced he would leave the club at the end of the year.

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

On April 23, Lord Jim O’Neill and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall wrote to Joel Glazer calling for changes to the corporate structure which would give fans more power in the running of the club.

They called 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 said they should also reduce their combined stake of around 75% to a maximum of 49.9%, which, Lord O’Neill and Sir Paul argued, 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 suggested that the Glazers should sell their shares at the original $14 IPO price “as a gesture of your desire to do things right”.

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