Sport finance expert expects Man Utd owners to stand their ground despite unrest

Manchester United fans should expect a stubborn response from the club’s American owners to their recent protests, an analyst has warned.

What started as a peaceful protest against the Glazer family on Sunday ahead of the match against Liverpool at Old Trafford escalated into criminal behaviour on the part of a small minority, with the game subsequently postponed.

Supporters have since written to co-chairman Joel Glazer to warn of continued lawful protests if steps are not taken to give them a louder voice and a greater say in how the club are run.

But Dr Dan Plumley of the Sheffield Business School at Sheffield Hallam University believes American owners have a history of being thick-skinned, and have been prepared to upset entire states in the past.

“One thing we know from history with American involvement in football clubs – and we’ve seen it at Arsenal – they do stand their ground, they are pretty stubborn,” he told the PA news agency.

“That is rooted in the way their sports are run. (Arsenal owner) Stan Kroenke picked up the Rams (NFL team) and moved them (from St Louis to Los Angeles) and nobody can tell you you can’t.

“You upset a full state by moving it, but if you’re prepared to do that then you can do it – you’re the owner. That’s just not the English model and that’s been the cause of the friction over the last few weeks.”

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has urged the Glazers to adopt a four-point plan, which includes the immediate appointment of independent directors to the board “whose sole purpose is to protect the interest of the club as a football club, not its shareholders”.

A fan-led review was launched in response to the attempted European Super League breakaway which involved United and five other English clubs, plus three each from Italy and Spain. The ESL plans quickly collapsed, but the review will look at the governance of the game and ways in which supporters can have a greater influence on the running of their clubs.

Plumley believes even the opening of communication lines between clubs and their supporters’ trusts would be a “first foot in the door” and does not believe the 50+1 model in German football could be “reverse-engineered” into the English game.

He accepts it may be too late for even opening up communication to ease the situation at United now, and certainly a number of the protesters on Sunday made it clear they wanted the Glazers out of the club.

Forbes Magazine valued the club at US dollars 4.2billion (just over £3billion) last month, making it an asset within the reach of only the super-rich.

Plumley added: “There’s a potential for this sort of protest to cause damage to the valuation of the club. The angle is to hurt the Glazers in the pocket, but it won’t do too much, to be brutally honest.”