They are the billionaire owners of several sports teams in the United States, but you don’t always see the likes of Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, Liverpool’s John W. Henry, and Manchester United’s Glazer family visiting their clubs’ stadiums to watch the teams they purchased.
Fans say that the US owners’ lack of involvement demonstrates that they have little to no comprehension of why English soccer fans are so passionate about the clubs they support.
Peter Kenyon, a former Manchester United chief executive, agrees with the assessment of his former team’s owners.
“I don’t believe the Glazers know what football is all about,” Kenyon told The Athletic’s Business of Sport podcast last month, referring to Manchester United’s owners.
“I’m not sure the people who are in that club now know what the club is all about.”
The postponement of Manchester United’s game against Liverpool on Sunday due to fan demonstrations — which at times were violent — brought the frustration of many fans with the Glazer family’s management of the Premier League’s most profitable team into sharp focus.
Over 1,000 demonstrators reportedly stormed the pitch at United’s Old Trafford stadium ahead of the match against Liverpool, according to police.
Around 200 people gathered outside The Lowry Hotel in Salford, where United players were staying ahead of the match, to demonstrate against the club’s American owners.
Manchester United released a statement in response to the protest, saying, “The club has no desire to see peaceful protestors punished, but will work with the police to identify those involved in criminal activity, and will also issue its sanctions to any season ticket holder or member identified … We remain committed to dialogue and engagement with our fans through the Fans forum and other appropriate channels.”
United fans’ dissatisfaction with the Glazers has grown after six of England’s top clubs joined the European Super League (ESL) last month, a multibillion-dollar competition featuring 12 of Europe’s best teams.
One of the 12 clubs was Manchester United.
Despite the fact that the venture failed less than 48 hours after it was revealed, the lack of fan consultation has enraged many fans, not just at United, who are determined to reclaim some semblance of influence over the team they pay good money to watch.
Following intense criticism from fans, the media, politicians, and even royalty, the six founding Premier League members gradually withdrew from the ESL, starting with Chelsea and Manchester City.
Arsenal and Liverpool’s participation in the failed Super League project has ignited anger among fans against their respective owners, Stan Kroenke and John Henry, as well as Liverpool’s chairman, Tom Werner.
Arsenal, for example, charges up to $132 for a match ticket.
In response to the Old Trafford protests, the Premier League released a statement on Monday acknowledging “the strength of feeling and the right of fans to know what is happening.”
“We are committed to maintaining close dialogue with supporters and their representatives, as we work with The FA and Government to identify solutions, but ask that all protests are peaceful,” added the statement.
The Glazer family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has never really won over fans since taking over Manchester United in 2005.
“After sixteen years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us,” said the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), a group of more than 200,000 club supporters, said in a statement on Monday.
When the Glazer family bought the club, fans told CNN they were worried it would be saddled with debt and that the family was only interested in the club’s name, which was second only to Real Madrid’s, and revenues. Before the Glazers purchased Manchester United, the club was debt-free.
The club’s net debt is $630.7 million (£455.5 million), according to the club’s most recent accounts, which were released on March 4, 2021. The club’s net debt had reached $283.16 million (£203.6 million) in December 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
It wasn’t the first time United supporters demonstrated on Sunday. MUST organized a rally in 2010 in which supporters wore green and gold scarves to games instead of the iconic red and white neckwear, the club’s original colours.
After Sunday’s protests, MUST is pushing for a more fan-oriented ownership model, while the Glazers point to a meteoric increase in the club’s commercial revenues.
MUST outline a four-point strategy to “rebalance the existing ownership structure in favour of supporters” in a Monday statement and demanded a response from the Glazers by Friday.
Though Manchester United and the Glazers are currently in the spotlight, fans have expressed their displeasure with other US-based owners who have participated in the ESL in recent weeks.
Protests outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London a few weekends ago demanded that Kroenke sell his shares in the club.
Despite the fact that Arsenal fan and Spotify founder Daniel Ek declared his intention to bid for the club, Kroenke has confirmed that the club will not be sold.
The news that Liverpool had signed up for the ESL didn’t sit well with the club, which prides itself on its strong relationship with its supporters, as symbolized by the slogan “This Means More.”