Manchester United Supporters’ Trust have told Joel Glazer the power to prevent further protests at Old Trafford is in his hands.
Thousands of fans helped to force United’s game with Liverpool to be called off on Sunday, with protesters at Old Trafford voicing their anger over the Glazers’ ownership of the club, while more fans blocked the team from leaving The Lowry Hotel in the city centre.
With the team unable to leave and hundreds of fans getting inside Old Trafford the Premier League game with Liverpool was eventually called off at 5.35pm, an hour after it should have kicked-off.
Ian Stirling, vice-chair of MUST, believes Sunday’s protests showed the strength of feeling among United fans after the attempted European Super League breakaway reopened old wounds with the Glazer family.
“This has been 16 years in the making, there’s been an uneasy truce with the Glazers, all that trust disappeared with one statement on the European Super League. It laid bare the risks to supporters put in place by these owners,” he said.
“We’ve put our demands forward to the owners, as a supporters’ trust that’s what we want to see progress on and the sooner we see that the better. Fans need to be listened to, they need to feel as if they are part of the club.
“For far too long we’ve felt excluded, like a value put on us instead of our support being valued.
“This was about the depth of feeling being demonstrated today and they can’t ignore it. We can’t get in the ground, we’ve not been in the ground for 14 months, it was only natural that would happen today. I won’t criticise any supporter for what they’ve done today, there were agitators on both sides.”
MUST read out a letter to the Glazers during Friday’s emergency fan forum, laying out five demands on the owners to instigate change at Old Trafford.
That included engaging with the government on the fan-led review of football and rebalancing the ownership structure in favour of supporters, appointing independent directors to the board, putting in place a share scheme that is accessible to all and has the same voting rights as the Glazers, consulting with season ticket holden on future changes to the club and a commitment from Joel Glazer that any costs associated with the ESL would be paid by the family.
They set this ball rolling, the owners did it with their greed, these so-called six big clubs, it was a power grab solely about greed. That isn’t football, that isn’t sport.
“We have very limited ways we can express how we feel, this was a natural reaction from supporters today to let the owners know what changes we wanted and 50+1 was a big message from that protest,” said Stirling.
“We’ve been pushing continually in terms of involving supporters and get supporters involved in a share scheme,
“Let’s not forget, this is a Glazer family who compulsory purchased our shares back in 2005 when we didn’t want to sell them. As a supporters’ trust we owned 18% of the shares then and they were compulsory purchases, it was never a financial investment, it was an emotional one and they took that away from us.”
Protestors against the Glazers are nothing new at Old Trafford, with the 2005 protests failing to stop the takeover and the green and gold movement in 2010 also losing momentum.
But Stirling believes time have changed and fans will not stop with demands for change until they are satisfied now.
“There was something very specific about those protests. In 2005 it was trying to stop them taking over, we never had the law on our side, it was far too easy to do it through the London Stock Exchange, we weren’t protected as football fans,” he said.
“With the bond issue in 2010, green and gold was in opposition to that, but they weren’t selling, they were more than happy to sit tight and ride it out. We also had a successful team then as well, we were about to go into another European final, we had Sir Alex Ferguson as a manager who came out in support of them.
“We’re in a totally different position now, fans are demanding change, this is the time for change. We no longer want to go down this route of travel with the Glazer ownership.
“They’ve laid out the way they say it in front of them with the ESL proposals, it’s about destroying the sporting principle, securing their business and increasing their own profits and fans will not stand for that.
“One thing Joel Glazer has been able to do is unite our support. We fought for that for 16 years and he’s done it in fell swoop.
“He can change all this, he’s got the immediate power now, the choice is all his. We’ve got limited power as supporters, we’re not protected as supporters, and we call on government to put those changes in place to ensure supporters have a meaningful voice in all clubs.
“There was no prospect for change then at all, now there’s a prospect for change, the landscape has changed. By putting forward this ESL proposal their motives are laid clear and fans have said this isn’t the way we want to go, we want a different model for United.”