#GlazersOut was trending worldwide on Wednesday night. It seems that our fanbase are once again waking up to the much, much bigger issues at our football club.
It's easy to jump on a bandwagon, in fact on this occasion I absolutely encourage it - but it's important for fans to realise how big of a problem The Glazers are for Manchester United.
My worry is that this #GlazersOut campaign will fizzle out. If United sign a couple of players and win a few games, then a large percentage of those backing the movement will go quiet again. Football fans are fickle, we all are to an extent, but if everybody knew the truth of this ownership there is absolutely zero chance this will go away. Not if we sign Neymar, not if we win the Premier League, the future of Manchester United is in serious jeopardy and fans collectively need to understand the magnitude. I hope this post gives everyone an insight on just how big this problem is.
This article is a long one, so buckle up. Let's start with some statistics which were given to me by Red News, the first Manchester United Fanzine, founded in 1987. These statistics were carefully gathered and the authenticity completely verified, which makes it even scarier reading...
CURRENT DEBT: £496m
As per the latest 2019 accounts, Manchester United's current debt stands at £496m. In 2005, The Glazer's leveraged buyout saddled the club with £540m of debt, meaning that the debt has been reduced by just £44m in 14 years.
TOTAL INTEREST PAID: £768m
In interest alone, Manchester United have spent £768m, essentially just to service the debt that The Glazers placed on the club. The £768m is a conservative figure as this doesn't take into account any fees to restructure the debt - making the overall fee unclear, but certainly higher. To give this figure some perspective, it took United 13 years under The Glazers to spend this amount on players.
SHARE SALES: £452m
The Glazers launched Manchester United on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. The MUFC shares have been sold in 4 tranches between 2012-2017, overall raising £452m. What has happened to that £452m? Let's just say that absolutely none of that has been invested in Manchester United.
DIVIDENDS PAYMENTS: £80m
In 2012, unlike Manchester City and Liverpool, for example, Manchester United decided to commence dividends payments. Since 2012, The Glazers have taken £80m in dividends alone.
DIRECTORS FEES: £75m
£75m has been paid in 'Directors Fees' since 2011. Salaries for Woodward and Arnold are included in this figure, but the rest? You guessed it, The Glazers. Not included in this figure, but reported by Red News, is a further £8m per year that The Glazers receive in 'Consulting Fees'.
With those stats alone, which are extremely conservative, not giving the total amount drained from the club - Manchester United have lost £923m by paying the Glazer family and servicing their debt, the club has sold £452m of shares of which none has been put back into the club and are still saddled with £496m of debt with crippling interest rates. The total figure that The Glazers have drained from the club, and incurred with debts and interest is much closer to £1.8 BILLION.
Those figures are damning. The Glazers bought Manchester United on debt with a personal stake of around just £200m. They currently own 80% of the club, which is now worth billions.
The debt placed on the club reached a high of over £700m in 2010, which was almost critical. The current debt stands at just £44m less than the figure when The Glazers completed the takeover. At the same rate, it will take Manchester United 158 YEARS to be debt-free.
THE UNDER-INVESTMENT AND THE MIS-INVESTMENT
Moving on - The under-investment.
The Glazers have been here for 14 years now and whilst the recruitment was relatively sound under Sir Alex Ferguson, it was extremely limited. Since Ferguson's retirement, the club have tried to play catch-up thanks to 8 years of severe under-investment. Manchester United had a net-spend of just £158m across 8 years under Sir Alex Ferguson - that's just £19m per season! Here's the breakdown of the money paid in transfer fees, by season, under Sir Alex Ferguson;
05/06 - £28.62m
06/07 - £24.48m
07/08 - £93.15m (The stand-out year for investment, United won the PL and CL double)
08/09 - £40.73m
09/10 - £24.66m (Ronaldo left for £80m this summer – less than £25m was spent)
10/11 - £26.37m
11/12 - £56.07m
12/13 - £68.81m
During those 8 years, we were fed the 'no value in the market' line. Even Rooney questioned United's ambition. It was evident that United were being held back. Whilst Manchester City were building one of the best squads in the world, Manchester United were resigned to signing Antonio Valencia as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo and taking punts on the likes of Bebe and Manucho. The year City signed Aguero, United signed Young. An average net-spend of £19m per season for 8 years, for a club the size of Manchester United, is madness.
You could argue that Manchester United were still successful during these years, but that was not down to The Glazers. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, not to mention Sir Alex Ferguson were instrumental to those glory years, all of which were at United before the takeover.
The Glazers had no hand in those successful years under Ferguson, if anything, they prevented even further success in Sir Alex’s twilight years.
A recent example of more severe under-investment was last summer, as a club that needed significant improvement on the pitch to compete, Manchester United were outspent by Liverpool, Chelsea, Fulham, West Ham, Leicester, Everton and Wolves – How is that even possible? Two of those clubs were newly promoted.
Another good example of the recent under-investment at United is the % of turnover spent on transfers in the last 3 seasons;
Everton - 60%
Liverpool - 47%
Chelsea - 46%
Manchester City - 43%
Tottenham - 22%
Manchester United - 19%
It's hardly a surprise that United have been leap-frogged in England, with the likes of Wolves and Everton closing the gap rapidly.
Now for the mis-investment...
Since 2013, Manchester United have spent a net of £569m on players, including the recent signing of Daniel James. Whilst that is significantly more than the previous 8 years, that's still just an average of £81m per season. Given that United have spent £200m more than that in interest fees alone, it shows that they've been financially restrained. Still, let's say that £569m is a fair amount to spend on players over 6 years, which it is in any other scenario, how is it possible for that money to be spent so poorly?
With Woodward at the helm, Manchester United have overpaid for average players and given out ludicrous contracts to even worse ones. Despite having the worst squad in the top six in England, and with other clubs catching up, Manchester United have the 4th highest wage bill in Europe, behind only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus - a figure believed to be £312m per year, or £6.5m per week! Look at some of these figures...
Alexis Sanchez - £290k per week (rising to £500k based on bonus triggers)
Anthony Martial - £250k per week
Romelu Lukaku - £200k per week
Luke Shaw - £195k per week
Juan Mata - £140k per week
Phil Jones - £120k per week
Fred - £120k per week
Ashley Young - £110k per week
Jesse Lingard - £100k per week
Marcos Rojo - £80k per week
The wage structure at Manchester United is out of control, the transfer strategy is erratic and there’s a general feeling that whoever the manager is, they don’t have the final say on transfers. If the manager wanted a CB that costs £50m, Woodward would deliver the cheaper alternative at £30m. Short-term, it saves money - long-term, a replacement is needed. Rinse and Repeat. Unless it's a star-name, Woodward isn't interested. On the flip-side, City and Liverpool spend huge money on number 1 targets in areas that the manager has specified needs investment. City have spent £135m on full-backs and £110m on centre-backs alone since Guardiola came in, despite already having better options than United across the entire back line.
Manchester United employ at least 40 full-time scouts. 7 in the UK, 18 in Europe, 13 in the Americas, 1 in Japan and 1 in Senegal. A huge scouting network watching players play every week, surely I hope recommending players regularly. Are their suggestions ignored?
Almost every transfer window under Woodward has been a desperate scramble. The writing was on the wall in Moyes' first summer when United ended up paying £3.5m more than Fellaini's release clause on deadline day in 2013. It's not just Moyes who was let down by the incompetence of the people above him either, all three managers that have been shown the door have said similar things - surely they can't all be wrong?
Transfers and contracts themselves are headed by Ed Woodward, a former accountant and investment banker with no knowledge of football. Sacrificing manager's top targets to go for cheaper alternatives. Offering long-term contracts to players who should have been shown the door years ago, because ultimately it works out cheaper. In his efforts to keep costs as low as possible, Woodward has created an uncontrollable mess at Manchester United.
Think about it, there's a reason that Ed Woodward is still in his role after 6 years and it certainly isn't anything to do with football.
“If I answer that just very simply and candidly, playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business" - Ed Woodward
THE NEGLECT OF FACILITIES & OLD TRAFFORD
Again, it's a shame that I have to make comparisons to Manchester City, a club run for the good of football and not greed, but City's owners have invested a considerable amount into their facilities - including £200m for the build of the Etihad Campus. At United, the investments at the stadium have gone no further than a lick of paint here and there and upgrades of the hospitality suites (of course). The average spend on refurbishments across all of the club's properties - Old Trafford, Carrington and The Cliff - is just an average of £3.7m per year - again, the majority of that being spent in hospitality. Even plans to expand the Ticket Office were shelved in an attempt to save money.
The only major work done on Old Trafford under The Glazers were the new quadrants in 2006 - a project that The Glazers were obliged to fulfil as part of their takeover, as considerable money had already been spent. You can bet your life that The Glazers would have pulled the plug on that, too, if they could. Even then, it's believed that The Glazers had to lend money to complete the Quadrants, which was then in turn loaded onto the back of the rest of the club's debt.
Old Trafford, one of the most historic stadiums in world football is being left to decay. The roof is leaking. The paint around the ground is tired and tatty. The whole ground feels dated - and not in a good historic English football kind of way - more in a 'this is a bit of shit-hole' kind of way.
This is highlighted even further by other clubs, in England and abroad. Seven of the twenty clubs in the current top-flight in England have built new stadiums in the last 20 years. Further to those clubs, Liverpool have made major rennovations to their Main Stand and Everton and Chelsea have firm plans to build new stadiums.
Further afield, Barcelona and Real Madrid are in the process of upgrading their stadiums which will cost them each somewhere in the region of £400m - £500m.
It's not just the stadium either. Before The Glazers, Carrington was a state-of-the-art training facility, maybe the best in the world - now it's been surpassed by the likes of City and Spurs in England and there are no comparisons with the world-class facilities of the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho was said to be 'less than impressed'.
Whilst the likes of Manchester City are pumping money into their academy and providing their players with the best in class facilities across the board, United are stuck in time.
The neglect of the stadium and the surrounding facilities is symbolic of the general direction of the club and also a consequence of the position it finds itself in. It's not that Manchester United can't make the huge rennovations that Old Trafford needs or bring Carrington into line with the rest of Europe's big hitters, it's just that they simply won't.
Manchester United's under-investment goes way beyond not buying a few players. The club is dangerously dated - from the methods in the background to the stadum itself. The rest of football are in 2019, Manchester United find themselves kicking dirt in 2005.
WHY THEY WILL SELL V WHY THEY WONT SELL
Let's start with the positives - Why The Glazers might sell.
It's a huge might. An astronomical might. But here's why they might.
The Glazers have been here for 14 years now, in that time they've made the best part of £1 billion for themselves - this doesn't include the interest or debt. Not bad from a club that essentially cost them nothing, right? Everything runs its course and everything has an expiry date. With Manchester United seemingly in decline, now might be the best possible time for them to get out. Here are some bullets in favour of why The Glazers might sell;
Commercial Revenue: Commercial revenue at the club has stagnated since 2016 and has pretty much flat-lined every year (2016, 2017 and 2018).
Champions League: Champions League football, a certainty for almost a decade under The Glazers, is no longer a given - that's roughly £84m per year. With the state of this current squad, Champions League football looks a million miles away.
Champions League bonuses: Contracts such as the Adidas deal are loaded with Champions League incentives meaning less money across the board should Manchester United fail to qualify for the Champions League, which by all accounts is likely.
Share Prices: This one will be a killer for The Glazers - The Share Price has dropped considerably since March. The Share Price reached a high of $21.20 in March, now in June it's at $17.84. It doesn't sound like a considerable jump but that effect has essentially knocked $550m off the value of Manchester United!
Fan Unrest: At the end of the day, we're all just fans and we are limited in how much we can do, but fan unrest, providing it happens consistently with numbers, will put pressure on the owners and could be the deciding factor in whether they sell up or not.
Investment Needed: It's clear that investment is needed - on and off the pitch. Every penny spent on Manchester United Football Club is a penny out of The Glazer's pockets. They've hung off as long as possible in certain areas, but when more holes appear in the roof at Old Trafford and when the facilities age by another 10 years - they will have no choice. Would they really want to oversee a rennovation project that would cost them over £500m?
Debt: The debt isn't going away any time soon, neither is the interest. The Glazers know full well they can sell the club with the debt and it's just not their problem anymore. The intention was never to clear the debt, they're barely paying off the interest which has a compound effect in other areas. The debt is manageable, and I use that term loosely, but it's manageable now whilst everything is rosy and there are no unexpected costs on the horizon.
Okay, so let's look at the negatives. Here's why they probably won't sell;
Cash Cow: The Glazers are in charge of arguably the biggest club in the world. A club that provides them the best part of £20m per year in dividends and fees - probably more.
Finding a buyer: The Glazers will want at least £3bn to sell Manchester United. There are very few people in the world who can afford that, and the debt that comes with it.
Big Pay Outs on the Horizon: It's likely that The Glazers will sit tight, at least for the forseeable future. Two big deals upcoming in the next few years are the new US TV deal in 2022 which will be a massive increase and a proposed FIFA World Club Cup from 2021, which if it happens, you can be sure Manchester United will be playing a part.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Malcolm Glazer bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1995. The franchise is worth 10 times what he bought it for then, and The Glazers are showing no signs of going anywhere. They've been in control for 24 years now, which suggests when they get involved with a sports franchise, they're in it for the long haul. Especially when there are rewards to be reaped.
Manchester United don't need a rich owner, although that would be nice - they simply need an owner who will let the club spend the money it self generates. Unfortunately it's a Catch 22, the only way Manchester United get bought is by someone mega-rich and if that doesn't happen, The Glazers are here until they run the club into the ground or change their ways dramatically.
We as a fanbase need to do anything we can to unite against the owners.
This isn't about a bad season, finishing 6th. This isn't about not signing a centre-back last summer. This isn't even about success. This isn't about being a spoilt fan because I've seen nothing but trophies all my life.
This is about so much more. This is about the leeches sucking our club dry for their own personal gain. This is about getting our club back. Manchester United is deeply engrained in the lives of thousands of people and I, and I'm sure thousands of others, don't want to sit back and do nothing anymore.
You may have already seen on Twitter, but I have setup a Go Fund Me page where fans can donate to help fund organised activities and materials. So far, £1,206 has been raised and that's more than I ever imagined it would get to. Around 75% of those funds have already been allocated to something very specific for early next season. Progress will continually be posted on my twitter account (@TFWriter) of new activity and exactly what any money raised will be used for. If you want to contribute, the image below will take you to the page.
2005 didn't work. 2010 didn't work. Well, they didn't work in the sense that The Glazers are still here, but surely they had an impact. If not for the protests, maybe the club would be in an even worse position than it is now. Without fans speaking up, The Glazers may think they can get away with even more.
We shouldn't all sit here in silence and accept what is happening at Manchester United. If you want The Glazers out of Manchester United or even if you want to push for improvement under them, do your bit. Tweet. Protest. Wear Green & Gold. Do what you can.
I'm not sat here pretending that a few demonstrations and a hashtag on twitter will convince the owners to sell the club - nobody is - it's about getting our voice heard and forcing a change that benefits Manchester United Football Club, not Manchester United PLC.
If you made it this far, I salute you and thank you for reading.