Old Trafford protest
Pressure mounts on Glazer family as fans revolt
Fans on Old Trafford pitch (pic: Sky News)
Pressure is mounting on the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, after a fans protest forced the postponement of their English Premier League fixture against Liverpool at Old Trafford.
More than a 1000 fans had gathered at the stadium ahead of the fixture, with hundreds more outside the team hotel in the centre of the city as they revolted against the club’s involvement in the now-abandoned European Super League.
In scenes which will have shocked football around the world, supporters broke inside the ground and onto the pitch on two separate occasions whilst demonstrating against the US owners.
The decision to call the game off came after the scenes turned ugly with Greater Manchester Police reporting one of their officers had suffered a ‘significant slash wound’ to his face which required emergency hospital treatment.
A statement from the Premier League on the call-off said: “This is a collective decision from the police, both clubs, the Premier League and local authorities. The security and safety of everyone at Old Trafford remains of paramount importance.
“We understand and respect the strength of feeling but condemn all acts of violence, criminal damage and trespass, especially given the associated COVID-19 breaches.
“Fans have many channels by which to make their views known, but the actions of a minority seen today have no justification. We sympathise with the police and stewards who had to deal with a dangerous situation that should have no place in football. The rearrangement of the fixture will be communicated in due course.”
Flares were let off and bottles and barriers were thrown during the protest and Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable Russ Jackson said: “The behaviour displayed today by those at both Old Trafford and The Lowry Hotel was reckless and dangerous.
“We understand the passion many supporters have for their team and we fully respect the right for peaceful protest. Plans were in place to ensure this could happen safely, but it soon became clear that many present had no intention of doing so peacefully.
“The actions of those today required us to take officers from front line policing and call in support from neighbouring forces to prevent the disorder getting worse.”
The anti-Glazer movement has gained huge momentum in recent weeks following last month’s failed attempt to form part of a breakaway European Super League.
“This will go out all over the world and hopefully the owners of Manchester United will sit up and take note. These fans are deadly serious and this is just the start of it from United fans – I can guarantee you.” – Roy Keane
Former United captain Roy Keane warned the Glazers that this is only the start.
He told Sky Sports: “The United fans have had enough and they’re doing it because they love the club.
“It’s not just as a result of what’s happened the last two weeks with the Super League…it’s been building for a number of years. They’ve come to the end and feel enough is enough. It’s a huge statement for the game to be called off.
“There’s been a build-up in tension, whether it be about ticketing, poor communication, things going on in the background. The leadership of the club has not been good enough.
“When they look at the owners, they feel it’s just about making money. The United fans have looked at the Glazers and thought: ‘enough is enough’.
“They’re doing it because they love the club. Some people won’t agree with it, but sometimes you have to put a marker down for people to take notice.
“This will go out all over the world and hopefully the owners of Manchester United will sit up and take note. These fans are deadly serious and this is just the start of it from United fans – I can guarantee you.”
Keane’s fellow Sky Sports pundit and United ex-team-mate Gary Neville said: “There’s huge discontent. They’re basically saying enough is enough.
“The Glazer family have been resilient and stubborn for many years. I think they’re struggling for many, many years to meet the financial demands this club needs and have done for some time.
“The Glazer family are struggling to meet the financial requirements and the fans are saying the time is up.
“They’re going to make a fortune if they sell this football club. If they were to put it up for sale now I think the time would be right and it’d be the honourable thing to do.”
Michael Glazer first bought into the club in September 2003. By the end of that year, the family shareholding rose from from 3.17% to around 15%, which almost doubled in the year up to October 2004.
Mr Glazer’s acquisition of the 28.7% stake held by horse racing magnates John Magnier and JP McManus’s in May 2005 pushed his own shareholding to around 57%, well over the 30% threshold that would force him to launch a takeover bid.
A few days later, he took control of 75% of the club’s shares, allowing him to delist the company from the stock exchange, and within a month, the Glazers took 98% ownership of the club via their Red Football parent company and forcing other shareholders to sell. The final purchase price of the club totalled almost £800 million.
In 2005, disgruntled fans, believing the ownership of top clubs had become distant from the roots and traditions of the game, launched FC United of Manchester which has been playing in non-league football.