Greedy Devils

Theatre of Dreams

In the last 5 years, Manchester United had won the hat-trick of Premier League titles & reached 2 Champions League finals. They remain on course for a Treble this season. The club have an estimated 50 million fans worldwide and are arguably the biggest on the planet. Should be rolling in cash then. Should be spending millions on the world’s greatest players to entertain the bumper 76,000 crowds that carry on packing into Old Trafford. Crowds that have seen the cost of their tickets soar by 42 per cent in the nearly six years the club have been in the charge of their American owners – the Glazer family.

Incredibly, the prospect of United spending big on players has increasingly become a fantasy in the Theatre of Dreams. Depressing figures released yesterday show United LOST £108.9m over the last financial year to June 2010. Which means instead of new stars, the monies United fans help generate are now financing the huge debts from the Glazer takeover. United have been milked of around £400m in interest payments and charges since the Americans took control in 2005. A figure that went up by nearly £100m in the course of the last financial year. In that same time, only a net £56m has been reinvested in the team. A net spend less than that of Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Sunderland.

Under the Glazers, the average season ticket in Old Trafford’s South Stand has gone up from around £500 to £930. Clear proof that the fans have been hit hardest under the Americans’ ownership. Duncan Drasdo is chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust, which helped organise the anti-Glazer Green and Gold movement. He has been voicing his anger for many years over how supporters have been hit in the pocket to finance the Glazer regime. Drasdo said: “It sickens people that they are paying increased ticket prices every season under the Glazers but the money is just being wasted and not invested in the playing squad.” United will tell you there is £120m in the bank waiting to be invested in players. Fans are certainly not holding their breath. How much better off would United have been had they not been bought by the Glazers and had they not seen £400m go out of the window?

United had no debt and no interest payments before the Glazers’ stunning £790m takeover, which sparked a fans’ revolt. Last October, the club’s star player Wayne Rooney voiced his own concerns about the future of the club and a lack of investment. That mirrored the fans’ feelings, though Rooney felt that his worries had been addressed before he signed his megabucks new contract.

Chief executive David Gill insists there is certainly no pressure on to sell players and they are in the market to buy. He declared: “We have money in the bank so there is zero pressure on that, no pressure at all to sell any star player whether it is Wayne Rooney or X, Y or Z. I can categorically say that.” United have invested in the likes of Chris Smalling from Fulham at £12m and Javier Hernandez from Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara at £7m for this season. But the marquee signings United fans had come to expect, and believe the club need to maintain their constant push for all the major trophies, have been nowhere to be seen in recent years.

Most notably, United found themselves outbid for their main summer target of 2009, when Karim Benzema went to Real Madrid from Lyon for £30m. Off the pitch, United became the first club to break the £100m commercial revenue barrier. The same figure again has been made from media revenues. That, too, is positive. They also now make around £100m from matchday revenue per year, the vast majority of which comes, of course, from ticket sales. Despite the startling figures, which have angered United fans year on year, this is what Gill had to say about recent figures.

He stated: “We have a long-term financing structure in place, excellent revenues that are growing, we are controlling our costs – total wages are 46 per cent of turnover – and we can afford the interest on our long-term finance.” In August 2004, when he was fighting against the Glazers’ takeover, which he claimed would be ‘unmanageable’, Gill said: “Debt is the road to ruin.” Fast forward to this year’s figures and Gill revealed: “I can’t speak for any other club but the United fans should not be concerned.” Presumably, he meant the fans who can still afford to go to Old Trafford.


Copyright 2011 by The Sun


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