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.
(Page 3 of 3)
Even aside from smaller clubs, the delicate balancing of books in England’s elite Premier League has also concerned UEFA, European soccer’s governing body.
It published a report last month showing that 18 of the English’ Premier League’s 20 clubs owe a total of £3.4billion, more than the combined debt of the rest of Europe’s top divisions.
In Pictures Football around the world
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
As a solution, UEFA advocates greater ownership of clubs by supporters – a model that happens to be part of a new vision for Manchester United being put forward by a consortium of British financiers attempting to stage a £1.25 billion takeover of the club.
Dubbed "The Red Knights," their ranks include high profile Manchester United fans such as Jim O’Neill, the consortium’s mastermind and the chief economist of the British arm of investment bank Goldman Sachs.
The takeover would be funded by a partnership of ultra wealthy fans as well as ordinary fans, an outcome attractive to many English rank and file supporters tired of watching as famous clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea turning into playthings or cash cows of foreign tycoons.
At the time of Glazer's takeover, Manchester United was publicly traded, allowing fans to own a piece of the action. Glazer took the club private in his takeover, so the only way he will lose control of the club is if he decides to sell -- or is forced to by mounting debt, something unlikely to be a problem for the deep-pocketed businessman any time soon.
While fan ownership of top clubs isn't uncommon in mainland European countries – Barcelona is the most high profile example – the model is rare in Britain.
Such clubs do exist however, and include FC United of Manchester, a lower league club team formed in 2005 by supporters following the Glazer takeover, which led to hundreds of supporters defecting. Still, FC United averages just over 2,000 fans per home game. FC United's estranged bigger brother averages 75,000.