As David Beckham returns, anger at Manchester United US owner
Manchester United prodigal son David Beckham returns home to Old Trafford for the first time in seven years today, representing AC Milan in a clash for a quarterfinal place in the European Champions League, the world's richest club soccer competition. There's a brewing insurgency in Manchester, though, against the clubs US owner Malcolm Glazer.
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The supporters are revolting?
Few are surprised then that so many are turning to the rebellion, centered around the Manchester United Supporters Trust, whose membership now stands at more than 120,000Skip to next paragraph
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“Manchester United is based in Salford, which is probably one of the most working class areas in the country,” says Mark Hayes of Southampton Solent University, who has researched soccer fan identity and its interface between commerce and culture. “The question has to be asked: how many working class fans can now go to games? They are disenfranchised; alienated and extremely angry at the way the club is being run.”
Anger also runs deep at the way Mr. Glazer has loaded the club’s books with more £700m ($952m) of debt, making United’s financial position a potentially precarious one.
Although most observers believe the club is too big to fail, that’s certainly not the case at an increasing numbers of other burdened clubs now counting the cost of having lived beyond their means, such as Portsmouth and Crystal Palace.
In the latest reminder of the financial malaise threatening "the beautiful game" in the country of its origin, three lower league clubs were also in court Wednesday over unpaid tax revenues. Cardiff, Southend United and Chester face the prospect of liquidation.
“I think the situation is probably worse now than at any time I have known,” said Gerard Krasner, a former Chairman of Leeds United, who oversaw an emergency administration to ensure the survival of debt-stricken Bournemouth AFC in 2008.
“The ones with the massive income are in the Premiership, lower down the income is not so great. They have a very small percentage of television revenue. Some of them have tried to buy success and failed and I think over the next few years we are going see some disappear.”
The ripple affects of such outcomes cannot be underestimated, adds Dr. Hayes.
A fan of Southampton FC, he points to 2009 research showing that domestic abuse cases increased in the city as the club experienced a downturn on the pitch and struggled with crippling debts.
A way of life
“There is absolutely no doubt that people invest their lives in football clubs,” he says. “There is a fan base which is absolutely wedded to their clubs as a manifestation of their community, especially at a time when people are leading more individual and isolated lives. The impact of losing that link is difficult to quantify but will be absolutely profound.”