A couple of weeks ago it was announced that Arsenal would be initiating a fan share scheme. With the full backing of the club’s board, fans are now able to buy a fraction of shares so that supporters can be given a stake in the club. People who opt into the scheme will be able to attend Arsenal’s Annual General Meetings, where they will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on how the club is run and they will be able to vote on policy. The announcement of the fan share scheme has gone down very well amongst Arsenal fans, who are delighted at the prospect of being able to buy affordable shares and have a influence over their club.
Whilst fans at Arsenal are pleased, at Manchester United there is great unease over the ownership of the club. The Green and Gold protest movement gathered a real head of steam last season, where scarfs in these colours could be seen across Old Trafford and discontent with the Glazers mounted. On Wednesday it was revealed that the club had failed to reach their season ticket target against the backdrop of the Manchester United Supporters Trust urging fans to boycott buying season tickets in the hope of encouraging the owners to sell up. With relations between the club’s owners and fans at such a low ebb, would it be a wise move for Man Utd to initiate a similar fan share scheme to Arsenal in order to bridge the gap?
When the Red Knights were interested in buying Manchester United earlier this year, part of their mantra was to propose that supporters trusts would be able to buy a 25.1% stake in club, which would give fans a decisive say in the clubs policy. It was a neat move by the bids chairman Keith Harris, who realised that getting the supporters on side would be crucial if the Red Knight’s bid was to have any chance of success. As it happened the takeover did not go ahead, but perhaps the Glazers could learn a thing or two from what was a popular bid from the Red Knights and consider a fan share scheme themselves.
If the Glazers iniatiated a similar fan share scheme to the one proposed by the Red Knights, it would surely ease tensions between the club’s board and the fans. If they were to offer supporters a chance to buy a certain amount of stake in the club it might actually give the Glazers a longer incumbency as owners of Man Utd. The impact the movement against the Glazers has had, can already been seen in regard to the disappointing season ticket sales, and as time goes on the level of discontent with the owners is only going to increase. There will surely come a point when the clamour for their departure will make their position untenable.
A fan share scheme would certainly go some way to bridging the gap between the supporters and the boardroom. The Glazers however, have only ever seemed happy with maintaining full control of the club, and though a fan share scheme might be a good move on their part, you would not be holding your breath for it. Such is the level of antipathy against the Glazers amongst the fans, that there is also no guarantee that it would sate supporters appetites for the owners heads. But if the Glazer family want to have any sort of popularity at Old Trafford without selling the club, then a fan share scheme might well be their best bet.