MANCHESTER, England — It’s widely-accepted that each determine of authority concerned within the failed try by 12 golf equipment to type a European Tremendous League final month misjudged the temper of their group’s followers — and people of many others — earlier than swiftly pulling the plug on the entire concept. None, although, stirred up a hornet’s nest fairly just like the Manchester United-owning Glazer household.
Supporters have all the time been suspicious of the Glazers’ motives ever since they took management in 2005, believing them to be pushed purely by cash and the chance to use the membership model’s industrial energy.
As such, their involvement within the Tremendous League cabal merely confirmed these suspicions and deepened their unpopularity. However Sunday’s stunning occasions at Outdated Trafford, when protesting followers compelled the postponement of the Premier League recreation in opposition to Liverpool, supplied a stark instance of deep-rooted enmity.
Whereas post-Tremendous League protests elsewhere had been, on the entire, peaceable, the botched breakaway plans merely poured salt into present wounds at United and triggered revolt that led to the fixture thought to be the English recreation’s greatest being referred to as off as a result of, within the phrases of the Premier League, it created a “harmful state of affairs that shouldn’t have any place in soccer.”
– In footage: Fan protest results in postponement
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And it was harmful; a Better Manchester Police assertion, launched after the postponement was confirmed, revealed one officer required emergency hospital remedy after sustaining a “vital slash wound to his face” from a thrown bottle. Police added that “bottles and obstacles” have been thrown at horses and that United workers needed to “lock themselves in rooms” as protesters breached the Outdated Trafford safety cordon.
Pictures of the protest, which had been publicised within the days previous to the sport, noticed followers let off flares on the United group resort earlier than as much as 200 compelled their method into the stadium and onto the pitch, the place they climbed on goalposts, stole nook flags and footballs and entered the tunnel space and dressing rooms, which noticed COVID-19 protocols breached within the bio-secure crimson zone.
Whereas the difficulty flared, United and Liverpool gamers remained holed up of their accommodations, with neither capable of make the brief journey to Outdated Trafford.
United supporters’ antipathy towards the Glazers dates again 16 years, when the Florida-based household plunged the membership into debt to the tune of £540 million with a leveraged takeover. There was protest on the time, with warnings voiced that such an possession mannequin would see membership cash spent on the servicing of loans reasonably than the acquisition of star gamers.
Glazer brothers Avram, Joel and Bryan wanted a police escort to flee a gaggle of over 100 offended followers at Outdated Trafford within the days after the takeover, and supporters have railed in opposition to the homeowners ever since. Certainly, some merely stopped following United, with one group forming nonleague group FC United of Manchester in protest.
Nevertheless, many stay loyal and, pre-pandemic, the membership boasted the most important common attendance within the Premier League, with greater than 75,000 constantly attending house video games. And therein lies the contradiction — regardless of their disdain for these in cost, followers nonetheless flip up of their hundreds, and the Glazers realize it.
Conservative estimates suggest that debt payments and share dividends have seen over £1 billion taken out of the club under Glazer ownership, figures that contrast the actions of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who has poured over £1 billion into United’s neighbours since his purchase of the club in 2008.
In 2009-10, United fans attempted to oust the Glazers with a “Green and Gold” campaign based on the colours of Newton Heath, the club which grew into United in the early part of the 20th century. The aim was to force the Americans to sell to the “Red Knights,” a group of wealthy United fans, but despite David Beckham — then playing for Milan but a United legend — donning a green-and-gold scarf in an apparent show of support, the movement ran out of steam.
The Glazers, who have owned the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers since 1995, rode out that storm and have done likewise with others and, pre-pandemic, would regularly attend United games. One source told ESPN that they are unfazed by the hostility and unlikely to sell due to the prestige they place on being owners.
Their supporters — and they don’t have many — would argue they have always backed their managers with funds for new signings. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, United’s net spend on new players amounts to £742m; only City (£864.5m) have spent more among English clubs.
But a lack of communication with supporters, combined with the team’s lack of on-pitch success post-Ferguson, led to increased hostility toward the Glazers. The announcement earlier this year that Avram was selling £70m worth of shares, with none of the proceeds going back into the club, only added weight to fans’ claims they were only in it for the money.
Amid that background, the Super League plans proved to be the final straw for those fans who took matters into their own hands on Sunday. With new impetus, many years of resentment, anger and frustration reached boiling point.
With high-profile figures such as former United captain Gary Neville condemning the Glazers as “scavengers” in wake of the breakaway revelations, the Liverpool game was identified as a perfect stage to remind the world of their determination to force the owners out.
United fans want not just a change of ownership, but reform of football governance to ensure supporters of all clubs can have a voice on issues such as ticket prices and kickoff times, as well as preventing unscrupulous owners taking charge of clubs that have been rooted in communities for over 100 years.
But beyond the short-term impact of Sunday’s protests, they will not force the Glazers into selling United and that creates a problem for the club and Premier League. If the fans cannot get what they want, there is a risk of Sunday’s violence and disruption happening again.
There is no obvious middle ground or compromise that could see the two sides reach a truce and so, after a day of shameful scenes and imagery, England’s most glamorous fixture has been called off amid the sound of breaking glass and the roar of an angry mob.
Nobody emerges with their reputation enhanced, and damage has been done to all sides.