One former Manchester United chief executive — Peter Kenyon — agrees with that characterization of his former team’s owners.
“I’m not sure the people who are in that club now know what the club is all about.”
Police estimate over 1,000 protesters invaded the pitch at United’s Old Trafford stadium ahead of the match against Liverpool.
Some 200 people also congregated outside The Lowry Hotel, Salford where the United players were staying ahead of the match, to protest against the club’s US owners.
Although the venture fell apart less than 48 hours after it was first announced, the lack of fan consultation galvanized many supporters — not just at United — who are intent on wresting back some semblance of control they pay good money to watch.
The six founding Premier League members eventually withdrew from the ESL, beginning with Chelsea and Manchester City, following widespread criticism by fans, the media, politicians and even royalty.
The involvement of Arsenal and Liverpool in the failed Super League project has also sparked discontent among fans for their respective owners, Kroenke and Henry – along with Liverpool’s chairman, Tom Werner.
On Monday, the Premier League issued a statement saying it recognized “the strength of feeling and the right of fans to know what is happening” addressing the Old Trafford protests.
“We are committed to maintaining close dialogue with supporters and their representatives, as we work with The FA and Government to identify solutions, but ask that all protests are peaceful,” added the statement.
CNN has reached out to the Glazer family, Kroenke and Henry for comment.
Since taking over Manchester United in 2005, the Glazer family — which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers — has never really won fans over.
“After sixteen years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us,” said the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), a group of more than 200,000 club supporters, said in a statement on Monday.
According to the club’s latest accounts released on March 4, 2021, the net debt of the club is $630.7 million (£455.5 million). In December 2019, before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the club’s net debt had reached $283.16 million (£203.6 million).
Sunday wasn’t the first time United fans staged a protest. In 2010, MUST organized a protest in which fans wore green and gold scarves to games, the club’s original colors — ditching the ironic red and white neckwear.
In its Monday statement, MUST outlined a four-point plan to “rebalance the current ownership structure in the favour of supporters,” demanding a response from the Glazers by Friday.
Part of that plan called for a ” share scheme” which would give fans similar voting rights to the Glazer family.
One of the points includes Manchester United fans being offered the opportunity to buy Glazer family shares in the club until they have been “reduced to a minority or indeed being bought out altogether.”
Genie out of the bottle
While Manchester United and the Glazers are currently in the spotlight, fans have directed their anger at other US-based owners in recent weeks due to their participation in the ESL.
At Arsenal, protests a few weekends ago took place outside the Emirates Stadium in London demanding Kroenke sell his shares in the club.
Although Arsenal fan and Spotify founder Daniel Ek announced his intention to submit a bid for the club, Kroenke has insisted there’s no intention to sell.
At Liverpool, which has prided itself on the close connection to its fans — symbolized by a slogan “This Means More” — the news that the club had signed up for the ESL didn’t go down very well.
Subsequently, in a video posted on Liverpool’s social media, club owner Henry, thought to be one of the principal drivers behind the Super League, cut a contrite figure.
“Over these last 48 hours, you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you. And I want to apologize to Jurgen [Klopp, manager], Billy [Hogan, CEO], to the players and to everyone who works so hard at Liverpool to make our fans proud,” Henry, owner of MLB giants Boston Red Sox, said. “They have absolutely no responsibility for this disruption.
“They were the most disrupted, and unfairly so. This is what hurts most. They love their club and work to make you proud every single day. I know the entire Liverpool team has the expertise, leadership and passion necessary to rebuild trust and help us move forward.”
The specific outcome that protesting fans want varies.
Some would like to see different owners at their clubs, while others would like to see the 50+1 ownership model used in Germany to be implemented in the UK, but the message is clear: no more to the perceived asset stripping of clubs, or owners that are solely focused on revenue generation.
However, what the last few weeks have shown is that the genie is out of the bottle — fans want to see these English clubs genuinely listen to them.