Manchester United fans hand Glazers ultimatum over delayed share scheme

Manchester United fans have issued an ultimatum to the club’s controlling investors over delays to a share ownership scheme pledged in the wake of last years’ European Super League (ESL) fiasco.

Sky News has learnt that the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) contacted approximately 100,000 members on Tuesday to express its disquiet over the lack of progress on plans to enable fans to own shares with the same voting rights as the Glazer family.

The communication referred to “prolonged discussions with the club” but said that United had “not yet made a proposal to us that is sufficiently acceptable to us to allow it to go to the next stage, which would be a members’ ballot”.

“Negotiations on these matters can take some time, but we can’t allow them to drag on forever, particularly as in the meantime we continue to see our club decline on the field,” it said.

Image: Manchester United fans outside the ground during a protest against the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United, ahead of their Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

“We have now made clear to the club that we are looking for a resolution to this matter within the coming weeks.


“One thing is sure – it is inconceivable that we do not have a definitive response by the time we reach the anniversary of the European Super League announcement [in late April].”

Manchester United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange but remains under the control of the Glazer family through a separate class of shares, is understood to have proposed issuing roughly $10m of stock to be earmarked for fans.

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While the shares ranked alongside the Glazers’ shares on ordinary resolutions, however, they would not have done so on special resolutions to be voted on at company meetings, according to a person close to the proposals.

MUST’s intervention comes at a difficult time for the club, which saw its last hopes of a trophy this season evaporate last week when they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid.

Joel Glazer, United’s co-chairman, said last June that the fan share scheme would be launched, adding that he hoped it would be operational by the start of the current season.

A source close to the situation said: “These talks have dragged on for nearly a year – enough is enough.

“This is all about Joel Glazer living up the big promises he made, and whether fans can buy shares with equal voting rights with no caveats or get-out clauses from the club.

“There is mutiny amongst the wider fan-base right now and if the club don’t move on this quickly, the whole idea will be dead in the water.”

Image: Manchester United fans on the pitch in protest against their owners.

MUST is thought to feel that the Glazers have dragged their feet on delivering their pledge, with Sky News having reported as long ago as last November that the two sides were making positive noises about an imminent agreement.

The renewed attention on the lack of progress in delivering the scheme comes as several bidders for Chelsea pledge to incorporate an element of fan ownership into their efforts to buy the Stamford Bridge club following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich.

Ministers are expected to report back in the coming weeks on their response to the review of football governance published late last year by Tracey Crouch, the former sports minister.

This season has been a turbulent one at Old Trafford, with the departures of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, and then executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward little more than a month later.

Mr Solskjaer was replaced on an interim basis by Ralf Rangnick, while long-serving commercial executive Richard Arnold was appointed as group chief executive.

The abrupt withdrawal of six English sides from the ESL was sparked by a wave of fan protests against some of their owners – the most vociferous of which came at Old Trafford, forcing a Premier League match against Liverpool last May to be postponed.

Mr Glazer issued a contrite apology for United’s decision to join the ESL, which has cost it – and the other founding clubs – millions of pounds in fines from the Premier League and UEFA, European football’s governing body.

Many United supporters have been mistrustful of the Glazers since their £790m debt-funded takeover of the club in 2005.

The family floated the company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012, but retained control.

The ESL crisis prompted two influential supporters of United from the financial world – the former Goldman Sachs economist Lord O’Neill and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall – to urge the Glazers to ditch the dual-class share structure.

Manchester United has been contacted for comment.