All the evidence tells us that the Glazers are fundamentally dim when it comes to grasping the significance of protest at Old Trafford.
When David Beckham, then of AC Milan, dealt the Green and Gold campaign a huge symbolic boost by draping one of their scarves around his shoulders while departing Old Trafford on the night of March 10, 2010, Joel Glazer’s UK PR man, Tes Nayani, rang his client to express concern that these images would be going around the world.
Glazer said he wasn’t sure the publicity was ‘necessarily bad’ and not even convinced the gesture was negative.
Manchester United fans’ patience has run out with the Glazers, staging a massive protest
The Glazers have shown through their history with the club that they don’t care for protests
‘Won’t it blow over?’ he said. ‘It’s always blown over in the past. Remember, Tes, you’re in the eye of the storm over there. Some fans are angry and protesting inside Old Trafford.
‘But from where I’m sitting there are many millions of fans who are just happy the team are through to the next round (of the Champions League). They’re supporters of Manchester United too.’
It was the same in 2005 when the Glazers had to be driven out of Old Trafford in a Volkswagen people-carrier with heavily tinted windows, as fans protested against their presence outside. Glazer simply joked with Nayani about how frenetic this first trip to view their new acquisition had been.
‘As long as you’re having fun, that’s the main thing,’ he said. What to wear for the only United TV interview Glazer has ever given — to MUTV the next day — seemed a far bigger concern.
David Beckham donned a Green and Gold scarf back in 2010 but the Glazers weren’t disturbed
‘Tie or no tie?’ he asked Nayani.
These responses seemed to say everything about the Glazer view that the global dimension would over-ride and choke out the local one at United, that the vastly profligate and uncoordinated outlay of the club’s commercial millions on players these past few years would appease fans.
This Glazer world view has no nuanced sense that dignity, soul and self-respect matter more than being second — miles behind Manchester City — in the Premier League.
And now we have reached the tipping point when it comes to them and United. The plot to take the club off into a European Super League, hatched under the cover of Covid, has confirmed everything that supporters felt about the forces of global, anonymous, big business spiriting away a club which gave them a sense of self. The ESL is emblematic of so much more.
Supporters’ anger in storming Old Trafford on Sunday is only the beginning of their fightback
As one senior supporter organisation source puts it: ‘The supporters’ worst fears about the owners have been crystallised.’
If Sunday gave the Glazers pause for thought, then they ain’t seen nothing yet. The real danger for them comes when football fans are back, at the start of next season: 100 days from this Wednesday, to be precise. That is when the pent-up fury will really be felt.
We can expect far more sophisticated tactics than Sunday’s — not least because of the highly effective information sharing between supporters groups at United and Liverpool, where fans have made their presence felt far more.
We can expect mid-game walk-outs, like the one at Anfield which forced Liverpool’s owners to abandon a detested season-ticket pricing plan in 2016.
We can expect email-bombing of any firm who work with or support the Glazers, like the one which prevented Liverpool’s former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett raising finance in 2010.
Fans will only get more active with their push-back until the Glazers have been hounded-out
We can expect a hell of a lot of unordered pizzas. The Glazers’ one-time PR agency, Brunswick, were subjected to a barrage of unsolicited stuffed crust, black ink faxes and website attacks around the time of the United takeover.
The sale of this £1billion-valued club, which is the Glazers’ main source of revenue, will not happen in 100 days, though the combustible mood of those whose anger has been bottled up during lockdown requires them to go big to placate supporters in that time.
What would be achievable by August is the act of handing supporters a genuine, boardroom-level say in the running of the club; their club. Allowing supporters to buy shares won’t do it.
The 2012 Initial Public Offering, which saw the Glazers raise cash by floating 10 per cent of the club on the New York Stock Exchange, was arranged in such a way that the shares offer a minuscule fraction of the value of those the family hold.
The Super League plot was brought in utilising Covid’s protocols, with fans out of the way
But the Glazers certainly could re-engineer United’s share structure in such a way that supporters, through a representative organisation, would have a ‘golden share’ — a definitive vote on every issue in which fans could expect a say. This is fiendishly complex.
Oversight of commercially confidential information would be best excluded from the arrangement — not least because every time something sensitive leaked, the supporter representative could find themselves blamed. But all issues relating to the stadium, fixtures and pricing certainly could.
Fans have one chance to get this right. The Manchester United Supporters Trust and Liverpool equivalent Spirit of Shankly, who seek the same say, are already deep into the detail.
The Glazers have no choice but to react to the fan fury by making changes at Old Trafford
The Glazers may actually have no choice. The current Government-led review into football could force them into a golden share arrangement anyway, so doing it voluntarily looks far preferable. And such is the unalloyed hate for the Glazers, they need to be the ones who do it first.
Nayani relates in his memoir, The Glazer Gatekeeper, that Joel Glazer did seem genuinely aggrieved when an ITV documentary questioned his claim to have been a boyhood fan of a North American Soccer League team, New York’s Rochester Lancers.
‘This is my childhood,’ he declared down the phone line. ‘How dare they try to steal my memories from me.’
The Glazers tried to get this detail removed. But it stayed — just as the fans of Manchester United will this time. They are not going quietly.