Manchester United supporters have given an ultimatum to the club’s controlling shareholders in response to delays in a share ownership program promised in the aftermath of last year’s European Super League (ESL) catastrophe.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) contacted about 100,000 members on Tuesday to voice its dissatisfaction with the lack of movement on plans to allow fans to own shares with the same voting rights as the Glazer family.
The statement mentioned “prolonged conversations with the club,” but stated that United had “yet to provide a proposal to us that is sufficiently acceptable to us to allow it to proceed to the next level, which would be a members’ poll.”
“Negotiations on these topics can take time, but we can’t let them drag on forever, especially while our team continues to suffer on the field,” it wrote.
“We have now made it clear to the club that we expect a resolution to this situation within the next several weeks.”
“One thing is certain: it is unthinkable that we will not have a concrete response by the anniversary of the European Super League announcement [in late April].”
Manchester United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange but is still controlled by the Glazer family through a distinct class of shares, is said to have suggested offering $10 million in stock to supporters.
According to a person close to the proposals, while the shares ranked alongside the Glazers’ shares on ordinary resolutions, they would not have done so on special resolutions to be voted on at company meetings.
MUST’s involvement comes at a difficult moment for the club, which had its last aspirations for a trophy this season vanish last week when Atletico Madrid knocked them out of the Champions League.
United co-chairman Joel Glazer announced in June that the fan share program would be implemented, adding that he believed it would be operational by the start of the current season.
“These conversations have dragged on for nearly a year – enough is enough,” a source close to the issue stated.
“This is all about Joel Glazer following through on his big promises, and whether fans may acquire shares with equal voting rights without any restrictions or get-out clauses from the club.”
“There is a rebellion amongst the wider fan base right now, and if the club does not move swiftly, the entire idea will be dead in the water.”
MUST believes the Glazers have been slow to deliver on their promise, despite Sky News reporting in November that the two sides were making encouraging noises about an impending agreement.
The increasing focus on the scheme’s lack of progress comes as numerous suitors for Chelsea offer to include a component of fan ownership in their efforts to purchase the Stamford Bridge club following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich.
Ministers are likely to report back in the coming weeks on their response to Tracey Crouch’s study of football governance, which was published late last year.
This season has been tumultuous at Old Trafford, with the resignation of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward a month later.
Mr. Solskjaer was succeeded on an interim basis by Ralf Rangnick, and Richard Arnold, a long-serving commercial executive, was named group chief executive.
Six English clubs abruptly left the ESL due to a wave of fan protests against some of its owners, the loudest of which occurred at Old Trafford, forcing a Premier League match against Liverpool to be postponed last May.
Mr. Glazer offered a heartfelt apology for United’s decision to join the ESL, which has resulted in millions of pounds in fines from the Premier League and UEFA, the governing body of European football.
Many United fans have been wary of the Glazers since their £790 million debt-financed takeovers of the club in 2005.
In 2012, the family listed the company on the New York Stock Exchange but retained control.
The ESL dilemma spurred two key financial backers of United, former Goldman Sachs economist Lord O’Neill, and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall, to encourage the Glazers to abandon the dual-class share structure.