Manchester United have set out their vision for the future in a fans’ forum meeting which will include the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.
Joel Glazer, executive co-chairman, met with the club’s Fans’ Forum to begin discussions following months of supporter frustration with the direction in which the club was going.
It comes after Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) wrote an open letter to Glazer earlier this week, urging the club’s owners to engage in fan consultation.
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The letter followed protests at Old Trafford last month over European Super League proposals which United’s American owners were at the forefront of and resulted in United’s Premier League match with Liverpool being postponed.
Making his first fan forum appearance in his 15 years of owning the club, Glazer outlined his intentions to not only invest heavily in all aspects of the club but to strengthen fan representation in the decision-making process.
To this extent, a Fan Advisory Board to consult with the club’s senior leadership and owners would be created with this consisting of representatives from the Forum and key fan groups.
The club will also initiate a direct dialogue with MUST with the aim of identifying a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme involving a new class of shares which will each carry the same voting rights as the shares owned by the Glazer family.
This would establish a foundation for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake and create a new spirit of partnership with the club.
Following the meeting, Glazer said in a statement on United’s official website: “I was pleased to join the fans’ forum to listen to the views of supporters, address their questions, and share ideas on how we can improve the way we work together.
“As owners, we want exactly the same thing as the fans – a successful team and a strong club – and we want to work in partnership to achieve those objectives.
“Fans are the lifeblood of Manchester United and I am personally committed to ensuring that they are given an enhanced voice, through the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.
“The club has been in discussions with MUST regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and has already sought external legal advice on options. Discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.”
Glazer also defended the club’s ‘sustainable’ business model over the last decade at the meeting, claiming that the commercial growth of the club had helped delivered the required revenue to be successful on the pitch as well as keeping ticket prices ‘affordable for all fans’
However, he went on to concede that further investment in the squad, scouting network, stadium and training ground would have to be found over the coming few years.
On the proposals, Glazer said: “We will continue to invest in our academy and in the transfer market to support the manager in an effort to meet the club’s goals.
“As a club we have devoted a lot of time and resources over the last several years updating and further developing our vast global scouting network to adapt to the modern football environment. This is a project that should provide a foundation for long-term success in the years to come.
“In addition, as you all know, we have also been focused on growing and developing our women’s team in line with the traditions and values of the club, and we are committed to continuing that process.
“Old Trafford is at the heart of Manchester United and while we have spent over £100m over the last 10 years on infrastructure projects, we will now accelerate the process of planning much more significant investment and upgrades to the stadium.
“Rest assured, we will consult with supporters throughout the process to end up with a result we can all be proud of.”
MUST urges global fanbase to ‘Sign for United’
A statement from MUST said there had been a “frank exchange of views” in Friday’s meeting and that Glazer had been “held to account on a series of issues including debt, dividend payments, tickets prices, lack of investment in the stadium and lack of engagement with supporters for 16 years”.
It described the share scheme as “potentially revolutionary”, and said: “MUST is cautious about whether this Fan Share Scheme will meet their own tests before they give it approval as despite the huge concession on voting rights that this proposal signals as ever the devil is always in the detail.
“In particular, despite Joel Glazer’s assertion that this will be ‘the largest fan ownership group in world sport’, MUST is concerned that there is a risk that the scheme will limit the number of such fan shares made available so reducing the opportunity for this to achieve a meaningful collective fan ownership stake – and ultimately with the potential to result in a change in control of the club.
“For that reason – MUST is today signalling their intention to recruit the millions of members of Manchester United’s huge global fanbase to unite behind their campaign and sign up to their pre-launch “Sign For United” campaign site so they can be part of the campaign when it launches in the next 10 days.
“The aim of the campaign is to demonstrate the huge appetite amongst United support for a better model of ownership which embraces the fans at its heart and in so doing compel the club to deliver a really revolutionary Fan Share Scheme which will both excite the fans and also exceed their demand for shares.”
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