It Sucks Being A Manchester United Fan- Thank You Glazers

It does suck.  Really it does.  I know what you will say:  “Shut up moron, your club is winning everything under the sun and you’re moaning, you could be a Pompey fan, or Leeds (if you are really unlucky).”

Well yes, I could be.  But not really, and I’m not.  I’m a United fan and yes my team has won 3 League titles in a row.  Won 2 Carling Cups in a row (last less than a month ago), and won the Champions League in 2008, made the final last season.  This season we are in the middle of a fight for another, unprecedented fourth in a row, League title.  The 19th in our storied history, the one that would put us above the hated Liverpool FC and truly “knock them of their f***ing perch” as one great man said.  Last week we have just won a tie against the great AC Milan (3-2 and 4-0 were the results of the two legs, truly historic and a show of domination) and got into the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League.  Wayne Rooney, United’s star is scoring goals for fun (32 so far this season).  Life could not be better.

Except, it could.  Despite all that great, and unprecedented success on the football/soccer pitch I am not all that happy.   Hell, I worry everyday.  In fact, I am almost depressed because of United.  Why do you ask?  Well its simple.  My club is in trouble.  Great trouble in fact.  We had all this success, and in today’s game it means huge financial rewards.  Last summer we sold a player who wanted to go to follow his dream.  We sold him to Real Madrid for record breaking and staggering 80 million pounds.  United’s revenue last fiscal year was close to 300 million pounds.  If it wasn’t for the weakness of the English pound we would be the richest club in the world.  We have signed a new, very lucrative shirt sponsorship, on top of that we are signing many other deals with companies all over the worlds.  Yes the money is pouring into Old Trafford.

And that’s the problem really.  The money is pouring in, but more is pouring out.  No we are not like our bitter neighbours Manchester City, we are not buying 200 million pounds worth of players.  We are not building a new stadium.  What for?  We have one of the best stadiums in the world.  Old Trafford just celebrated its 100th Birthday.  Its capacity is over 76,000 and over the decades it has been modernized, there is no need for a stadium.  United’s matchday revenue is around 3 million pounds per match.  We’re good there.  So where is it going?  Its going towards paying off our debt.  Well not ours, our wonderful owners.

Yes, our great and wonderful owners “bought” the club while having no money.  So they borrowed and borrowed and now our debt is 716 million pounds.  Yes, 716 million English Pounds.  Over a billion dollars.  A football club is in debt for that much.  And through no fault of its own really.  United before the summer 2005 were a PLC, a publicly traded company.  The club made a profit pretty much every season despite breaking numerous British transfer records (yes we bought some great and not so great, expensive players).  The club made profit despite paying very high wages to players.  The club made money despite rebuilding/expanding the stadium on a couple of occasions in the decade plus before the takeover.  It was the richest club in the world.  Then the takeover happened.  I wont bore you with all the financial details, many of you know them (those who do not go to here: its a great blog by a financial expert who writes about United’s current sorry state).  I’ll just give you a quick run down and my view of it.

My view was quite distant.  I am not English.  Not a season ticket holder, I did not own shares of United that I was forced to sell (many supporters did).  The takeover did not really affect me personally I thought.  Before the age of fast internet there was not too much a person like me could learn or get involved in.  I am an old-ish fart and so my computer experience was limited till around 2004-05.  I did not have much time anyway.  So my involvement with United was limited to watching games on television and reading the odd article that appeared in American or Polish papers (was born in Poland and we have decent Polish language press here and from Poland).  I also do not come from a tradition of local, fan owned clubs.  Most people know how sports clubs are run and treated in America, and from what I remember Communist run Poland was even worse.  So I have no natural aversion to some private person owning and running the club I love.  Hell I do not care if he is English, Polish, American, Chinese, or green with pink polka dots.  Matters not to me really.  Well it didn’t, till I got to understand truly what English football culture is about.  So to get back to the story.  I had a rather neutral view of the takeover.

Some American billionaire wanted to own Manchester United.  Oh well.  What I knew of the Glazers is that they owned Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.  Well I did not know much or care much about Tampa, Jets are not their rivals, so whatever.  And the Glazers managed to gain ownership of United.  There were protests.  Thousands of fans protested the takeover.  At first I did not understand why.  When I learned a bit I had some sympathy for them.  Then the unthinkable happened, several thousand gave up their season tickets, boycotted Manchester United, the club they claimed to love, and left.  They formed a new little club.  Football Club United of Manchester.  What?!  How, what happened?  Surely being owned by some Yanks can’t be as bad as that?  Even if they borrowed money to buy the club.  They’ll pay it off eventually I’m sure.  So what it they wanted to make money off the club.  They are businessmen, why shouldn’t owner make some money?  Hell under the PLC the profits went to shareholders in dividends.  What’s so different about this?

Well it turns out, a lot.  There were warning signs.  The first should have been the leveraged buyout.  But then every year United had to show something of their finances to the British govt.  So every year more warning signs.  And it soon became obvious.  Those who protested were right.  The doom and gloom brigade was right.  Each year the debt increased!!!  Yes.  First it was due to refinancing.  Then it turned out that despite paying around 60 million per year in interest and loan payments, United’s debt got bigger and bigger.  Still, somehow it will work itself out.  The Glazers are not stupid, they must have a plan, they’ll do something and get this under control.  it was worrying but let not jump to too many conclusions without all the facts.

The facts came this winter.  It turned out that the Glazers were selling 500 million pounds worth of bonds.  Now that’s not so bad at first glance.  But then they opened up the books, in order to sell the bonds.  716 million worth of debt!  Almost 200 million more than less than 5 years ago when they bought the club.  Not only have they failed to pay any of the debt, it actually fucking increased.  What the hell?  As any person on planet Earth knows, yes its possible.  We have seen some strange financial dealings over the years, and the meltdown proved anything is possible.  Eyes were really opened.

United Protest: Green & Gold Campaign

Yes, those on the fence, those who did not want to believe it, those who worried, but put off worrying to concentrate on the football, finally opened their eyes and joined those whom they called the doom mongers not long ago.  It was easy for many, especially during such great success, to avoid thinking about United’s financial state.  But now only the most deluded wont.  The successful bonds sale put off doomsday till 2017.  That is when the bonds will mature.  The bonds will cost United around 45 million per year in interest.  But where the hell will the Glazers find half a billion pounds to pay them off?  Simple answer is they wont.  But it gets better, there is still the small matter of the other 216 million pounds to pay off.  Those loans mature quicker.  And some are PIK (payment in kind) loans, high interest loans from hedge funds.  So the payments wont be 45 million per annum, but somewhere between 60 and 70 million pounds per season.  That’s just maintenance, without paying off the principal (again, for details I urge you to visit : .

Yep, 60+ million per year, just to service unneeded and unwanted debt without ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and United debt free.  Because by now its obvious to everyone that they have absolutely no intention of paying the debt off.  Happy days.  Yes, even the biggest muppets are opening their eyes.  After all where will the money to buy new players come from?  Just how much can the Glazers milk the fans out of?  The ticket prices are already very high.  How many more new sponsorship deals can we sign?  We already, through our success, made as much money as we could, from television and prize money.  What happens when we stop winning?  And we will stop, sooner or later.  No team keeps on winning forever.  What then?  Well then we will be truly fucked.

And fans are beginning to protest and boycott.  Yes, Manchester United’s biggest and most loyal supporters do not wish to give any more of their hard earned money to the Glazers.  The problem is that by their actions they might be quickening the demise of the club they love.  That is what the Glazers have done.  And mass boycott will have far reaching consequences.  But what else are the supports do to?  Wearing Green and Gold  scarves at matches (green and gold were the colours of the original team Newton Heath LYR, when the name was changed to Manchester United in 1902 the colours changes to red and white) and singing anti-Glazer songs can only go so far.  And to be frank.  Its temporary.  Just how genuine a protester will be if he keeps coming back and will be giving money to the Glazers season after season?  Its a problem.  A big problem in fact.

That is why I am writing this.  Not to bore you with a badly written outline of the takeover and the current situation.  I too am conflicted.  Thanks to some lovely people from Manchester I am currently reading the latest issues of United fnazines (independent United magazines run by the fans not by the club).  And it breaks my heart to read them.  Many of the stories in Red News, Red Issue, and United We Stand deal with the problem of possible boycott.  And they are truly heartbreaking.  Fans who have been going regularly for decades are considering giving up their season tickets.  Many of them are not priced out.  They just can’t go anymore because of the Glazers, the debt, and the modern football culture.  Yes.  Loyal supporters are willingly considering of not attending any more Manchester United games.  And at a time when United are winning.  These are not some jcl glory hunters, but true die hard Reds.  Think about that for a while.  Just how bad does a situation have to get that thousands are considering seriously to leave.

And its all the fault of those gimps from Florida.  These people stayed, conflicted, through the new SKY football era.  They stayed when the Football League changed to the Premiership.  They kept coming even after the atmosphere was diluted by bunch of corporate gimps.  they stayed after the ACS (Automatic Cup Scheme) was announced and implemented.  They kept going knowing full well that to the powers in charge they are not fans or supporters who come to cheer on the team they have loved all their lives, but instead they are costumers only.  To be ignored and milked out of money at every opportunity.  Yes they stayed.  Until now.

Now I don’t know how this will turn out.  I don’t know just how successful the G&G protests will be, whether or not they will do any good.  I don’t know if the consortium known as the Red Knights will be successful in buying the Glazers out.  Hell I don’t know how much better they would be if they did.  I don’t know what will happen at the end of the season, on and off the pitch.  I don’t even know whether or not we’ll be able to beat the hated Liverpool on Sunday.

But I do know this.  I sucks being a United fan.  It sucks that true and loyal Reds have to worry over things they should not.  It sucks that the Football Association and the Football League saw that the Glazers were somehow “fit and proper” enough to own Manchester United.  It sucks that there are no laws preventing there things form happening.  It sucks that in the most successful era of English club football the supporters have to see one club after another go down in yet another financial meltdown, where only relegation, administration, or wind up are becoming norm.  It sucks when so many of England’s historic clubs, large and small are under threat and their fans fear for their existence.  It sucks that an otherwise, a very competent football executive, David Gill, if forced to lie through his teeth when he talks about United’s finances.  It sucks that the greatest football manager in history, Sir Alex Ferguson, has his values questioned by fans.  Yes.  It really does suck.

Finally it sucks that even an inconsequential armchair supporter like me is forced to write this.  It truly sucks that I can’t buy a United t-shirt because that would mean compromising whatever little principles I have.  I sucks that whenever I put on previously purchased shirts I feel conflicted.  And it really sucks that if (as reported) United come to the States for a summer tour i will be forced to choose between the club I love and want to see live, and between those said principles.  It sucks that I have to sit and worry about things that really should not matter to some foreign git like me.

So yes, it really sucks to be a United fan.  For that we all have to thank the Glazers.  So in conclusion.  Love United Hate Glazer.  Green and Gold till they die or the club is sold.