What could turn out to be a pivotal moment and turning point in the Manchester United fans movement against the Glazer ownership of the club took place on Saturday afternoon in the centre of Manchester, with roughly 200 United fans, fully equipped with Eric Cantona masks, “flashmobbing” Glazer sponsor Thomas Cook’s branch outside of the Arndale Centre in a legal, peaceful and non-violent protest organised by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST).
This event, which follows the protest march that was witnessed prior to the Spurs game last week where approximately 3,000 supporters marched from the Tollgate Inn to Old Trafford cricket ground and onto the proper Old Trafford itself, is the first Direct Action since 2006, and represents a new and potentially very successful strategy for the group.
Huge gains were made last year for the anti-Glazer movement, with the cause receiving international coverage – and effectively endorsement from one Mr David Beckham. To take things to the next level, it was proposed to all fans not to renew their season tickets, thereby starving the Glazer’s of funds and making their ownership untenable. It has, however, been hard to fulfil the potential of this strategy because, although in theory it is a brilliant idea, many fans do not want to adversely affect the team by not giving them the support that they feel is their duty to provide.
For United fans to have any chance of ousting the Glazer’s we need to hit them where it hurts, in the wallet. After all, that’s why they bought us. Commercial revenue for United, our fastest growing source of income, is approximately £70m, nearly 25% of the clubs total income, which is only about £30m short of total TV revenue. United have a plethora of sponsors providing millions of pounds to the club every year, and so by effectively boycotting these firms, the club will face a potential cash crisis, the only solution of which will be to boot the Glazer’s out of the club.
If companies realise that sponsoring Man United will lead to mass boycotts of their products and non-violent – but loud, protests at their premises, very few will have any incentive to sponsor us. If the only solution is to get rid of the Glazer’s, then that is what will be done.
This website has for a long time advocated the MUST inspired movement, and is often critical of the Glazer ownership. Whether it’s the massive debt, crippling interest payments, disdain for the fans or general moral bankruptcy of the owners, there is no doubting that their continued presence is detrimental to the long-term success and stability of Manchester United.
There have always been people who have been critical of the movement, even amongst United fans – having once been one of those people myself I am well aware of this. At first I thought the movement was too costly in the short-run, I didn’t see how taking money of the club could help the situation. Then I thought that the financial situation wasn’t as bad as people made out, but that was until I read this brilliant post at The Swiss Ramble (link here). Then I looked down at the people who wear their green and gold scarves with their brand new United shirts, mistakenly believing these people to be the majority of the movement rather than minority. And if even people do choose to do this, it doesn’t alter the validity of the anti-Glazer cause.
People also accuse the MUST of sensationalism and exaggeration, citing the clubs on-pitch success in recent years as evidence for showing that the Glazer’s aren’t all that bad. But to do so is to confuse correlation with causality, just because the two happened together doesn’t mean that they’re linked.
Getting Ronaldo for just £12m, Chelsea shooting consistently themselves in the foot and Fergie devising a tactically revolutionary side are what I would cite as the reasons behind our recent success. Regardless of the Glazer’s, that would still have been achieved. Who knows, without them in charge we may have gone on to win even more, but that’s the kind of question we don’t want to be asking ourselves ten years from now, “what if”.
But there are two things we need for this strategy to work, unity and numbers. You could sense at times at Old Trafford this season a sense of defeat and resignation to the Glazer’s ownership, and a general snobbery towards those still engaging in the anti-Glazer chants. But since the march before the Spurs game this has disappeared, the frequency of the anti-Glazer chants is increasing and they are now louder than they have ever been this season.
Having 200 people at the Thomas Cook protest was a great achievement, especially considering the secrecy of the event – which was essential to its success. But it definitely isn’t enough. The MUST now has over 165,000 registered supporters, even a 1% turnout would result in protests big enough to send massive shockwaves around the footballing world. So I urge anyone out there to become a fully paid member of the MUST (link here), which only costs £15, so that you can receive information regarding future protest events. United we stand, divide their sponsors and the Glazers will fall.
Do you support these types of protests?