‘Silent’ Stan Kroenke’s affliction to public address has done little to appease Arsenal fans’ scepticism about his intentions for their club, and after making his oratory debut at the Arsenal AGM last Thursday, many of those doubts will still remain.
The 54-year-old American took the opportunity to lavish praise upon fellow countrymen and Manchester United counterparts the Glazer family, musing how the much maligned Old Trafford owners, “could have done it any better?”
Arsenal’s majority shareholder was talking admiringly about how during their six year tenure at Old Trafford, the Glazers have overseen huge revenue and turnovers gains whilst watching the team go through arguably their most sustained period of on-field success in their history.
Since the Glazers arrived in 2005 the Red Devils have scooped four Premier League titles, three League Cups and appeared in three Champions League finals, and this trophy-laden era has been coupled with an ever increasing cash-flow into the club and escalating value of their asset. In many ways, the Glazers have perfectly executed a chapter from Uncle Sam’s big fat textbook of business acquisitions.
Kroenke’s appraisal of the Glazers will come as a surprise to your average football fan, but your average football fan and the American billionaire businessmen are looking at the issue from two completely different perspectives. His complimentary rhetoric was not due a response, yet there will be few United fans lacking suggestions of how the Glazers ‘could have done it any better’.
Financial figures released at the start of September show United now have debts of over £300m with hundreds of millions of pounds of club money being siphoned off to pay high rate interest payments and debt administration to fund the Glazers leveraged buyout.
Legally the Glazers are doing nothing wrong but within footballing morality their conduct is up for debate. The football club are making more money than ever but huge proportions of it are going straight back out to effectively pad out the Glazers eventual profit. Kroenke may approve, but the father to son tradition that has made United what they are see differently.
The Manchester United brand is one which has been cultivated over decades to the point where they are arguably the biggest football club in the world. The seeds of United’s commercial success were sewn from before the Busby era and beyond, with the likes of Edwards, Charlton, Best, Robson, Cantona, Beckham and the many others all shaping the club as a global commodity long before the Glazers decided to capitalise on ‘Gold Trafford’ – the emporium which is a licence to print money.
Recent endorsements such as an £80m shirt sponsorship agreement with Aon and a £40m training kit deal with DHL show the profitability of Manchester United as a money making vehicle. Such deals will always be likely within the financial pulling power of football as a sport, meaning that clubs with the identity of United will always appeal to the masses – especially if they are winning.
Nine major trophies since their takeover suggests United are winning, but once again, the influence of the Glazers over this period is dwarfed by the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson and his unparalleled ability to manage Manchester United football club.
Another barometer that United’s relative success is despite the Glazers and not because of it comes when you analyse the transfer spend Ferguson has had to work with during their helm.
In the five seasons preceding the takeover, United’s former PLC spent approximately £120m net on players, but the Glazers have reduced that lavish spending. Between 2005-2011, United have spent close to £230m on players but have offset that with sales of £175m, meaning net over six years is less than half what the PLC commissioned. It’s a good job Ferguson can make wine from water.
The chicken and egg scenario for United fans wishing to oust the Glazers is that the more successful the club are, the more income they generate and the more money the Glazers will eventually earn. It seems the football team and the owners are living a symbiotic life whereby the football element does what it can and achieves what it does in contradiction to the way the owners do what they do.
So, in summary, Manchester United are making more money than ever but huge amounts of that is leaving club coffers to fulfil unrelated personal debt commitments, whilst less of their self earned money is being reimbursed back into the team and supporters are being forced to pay heavily inflated ticket prices to watch their heroes.
The fact that Stan Kroenke thinks the Glazers are doing a good job should strike an ominous chord with Arsenal fans.
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