Gary Neville: Man Utd fans worried Glazers will stay | ‘Horse has bolted’ on state ownership | Football News
Gary Neville says there are concerns among Manchester United fans that the Glazer family will look at an option to take investment and retain an amount of control of the club, rather than sell it.
Bids for ownership of Manchester United from Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group were confirmed on Friday but it was revealed on Saturday that US hedge fund Elliott Management also lodged a proposal for possible financing.
With the Glazer family seeking a full or partial sale or partnership with third parties, Neville says the priority for United supporters is that the American family completely exit the club at the end of the process.
“I think what scares Man Utd fans most is the feeling this Man Utd ownership are running this process to drive a massive price up to try to somehow establish a level which means two of them can stay in and the rest of the family that want out can be bought out by an American fund who wouldn’t mind owning a minority or significant share but not the entirety of the share,” said Neville.
“That’s the biggest concern. The whole emphasis at this moment in time from Man Utd fans is this has to be the end of the Glazer ownership.
“They’ve run out of money, they’ve not invested in the stadium… the fans want a new stadium, whether that’s Old Trafford refurbished or a new one rebuilt, we need new facilities. Man Utd’s stadium is behind a lot of the big [clubs] in Europe.
“The sporting project they’ve failed on in the last 10 years since Sir Alex Ferguson left. It’s doing quite well at the moment, third in the league but it’s not where Man Utd want to be.
“I still think there is a focus that this isn’t one big charade that the Glazers are running to try to establish a value which would be for their brothers and sisters to exit and the couple that want to stay in to stay. There’s a priority at this moment in time for them to go.”
Neville on offer from Qatar and ownership regulation
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, the former Manchester United captain revealed he had polled a group of the club’s supporters on Sunday and found the majority preferred the bid from the Qataris, over the offer from Ratcliffe – which could involve debt – or from an American investment firm.
There was significant condemnation of Qatar’s human rights, workers’ rights and stance on the LGBTQ+ community ahead of the World Cup and the bid from Sheikh Jassim has sparked debate about whether it is appropriate for him to become owner of Manchester United.
However, Neville says “the horse has already bolted” on the issue of state ownership of Premier League football clubs, with Abu Dhabi’s investment at Manchester City and money from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund used to purchase Newcastle United.
During an in-depth discussion about football ownership in this country and the need for greater regulation and even an ‘owner’s licence’ to establish what the criteria for a football club owner is, Neville explained why he felt the Qatari bid was favourable to United supporters.
“There is some concern,” he said. “[But] they want a debt-free club. They’ve become harmed mentally by debt, Man Utd fans, over these last few years.
“There’s a feeling they want an ownership that can compete with the Middle East estates we have in this league, which is Saudi Arabia at Newcastle and Abu Dhabi at Man City.
“From my point of view, there’s a white paper coming out later this week from the government. I know that might seem like really boring stuff around legislation through parliament of Tracey Crouch’s report and the independent regulator but I honestly believe at this moment in time, the EFL are powerless, the FA are powerless. The Premier League is stuck in a lot of their governance because they’ve got 20 different owners with 20 different mindsets and vested interests and self- interests and we do need, most importantly, whether it be for Man Utd, Man City or the whole league, we need to know what is expected of owners in this country.
“We need new sustainability rules, we need clear direction for what is the criteria for an owner to come into this country because no one knows the criteria.
“We definitely need a new distribution for the EFL and for the rest of English football, we need 100 per cent real-time financial monitoring, we need to look at the owner funding model and see what can be done with that so we have sustainability and we don’t have wages being increased by nation states that have got trillions of pounds – but still keeps a competitive field in the Premier League.
“Keep a cap and control on the clubs like Man Utd, Man City and Newcastle, who may have nation-state involvement, but allow other clubs to come up to their level of spending if they’ve got a wealthy owner that wants to come in, ie: Jack Walker at Blackburn all those years ago.
“There is a lot to go into when you start talking about all these issues but my priority at this moment in time is to get a regulator into English football so there is some level of controls brought in for whoever the owners are.
“We can talk about state ownership at Man Utd but we have already got two state-funded clubs in Newcastle and Man City. They’ve been allowed to come in already, so I find it difficult to say Man Utd shouldn’t on the other hand have a Qatari ownership.
“The horse has bolted in that respect, when Abu Dhabi came into Man City 15 years ago and Saudi Arabia came into Newcastle two years ago.”