MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United co-owner Joel Glazer offered Friday to make shares available to supporters with the same voting rights as shares held by his family, marking an attempt to heal the rift that deepened after failing to engage with fans before being part of the ill-fated attempt to launch a European Super League.
Talks on Friday marked the first engagement by the Glazers with fans since buying United in a leveraged takeover in 2005 that loaded debt onto the club and sparked years of protests. The dissent reached unprecedented levels last month when unrest around and inside Old Trafford led to United’s game against Liverpool being postponed, leading to the owning family’s pledge to attend a virtual fans’ forum.
United, which is controlled by the Glazer family, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and its market capitalization is more than $2.5 billion.
“Fans are the lifeblood of Manchester United and I am personally committed to ensuring that they are given an enhanced voice,” Joel Glazer said in a statement released by United after the forum.
United plans an advisory board to consult with the club’s senior leadership and owners that will be made up of fan representatives.
“The club has been in discussions with (the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust) regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and has already sought external legal advice on options,” Glazer said. “Discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.”
MUST described the share scheme as a “potentially revolutionary” idea, but cautioned that the “devil is always in the detail” about offering shares with voting rights.
“Despite Joel Glazer’s assertion that this will be ‘the largest fan ownership group in world sport’, MUST is concerned that there is a risk that the scheme will limit the number of such fan shares made available so reducing the opportunity for this to achieve a meaningful collective fan ownership stake — and ultimately with the potential to result in a change in control of the club,” MUST said.
Glazer, who has declined to give media interviews, told fans that investment in redeveloping Old Trafford would be accelerated and spending would continue on the team, which has not won the Premier League since 2013 or any trophy since 2017.
United was among the six Premier League clubs which joined up with six teams from Italy and Spain in trying to launch a largely closed competition to split from the existing Champions League structure.
The English clubs backed out inside 48 hours after a backlash from the fans and British government but still faced punishments from UEFA. Along with Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan, they signed up to a settlement with UEFA to participate only in the existing open European competitions and accepted giving up 5% of revenue for one season playing in Europe.