By now Manchester United fans will be aware of the Red Knights and their head man Keith Harris. Harris has made it clear that, with the aid of the fans, they (Red Knights) want to force a takeover at United. However, hoping that thousands of season-ticket holders refusing to renew their tickets this summer is another matter altogether. This will surely not have any financial impact on the Glazers.
Firstly, it is up to an individual if he or she wishes to attend the matches or renew season tickets. Secondly, if a boycott of some sort happened, be it 1,000 or 10,000 fans, then the seat will still be sat on inside Old Trafford- just by another means. The rumours of a boycott came to the foreground in the recent Champions League last-16 second leg tie with AC Milan. It was suggested that fans should miss some, or all, of the match. The problem was that the season ticket holders for that game will have already paid for it. It would then be a question of balancing what the more important thing was for the fans: coming to support your team in a very important game or effectively throw in the towel because if the issue was the Glazers then that will not force them to sell. I can see that Harris does not mind voicing his stance on what should be done. He said: “The supporters have to hurt the Glazers in their pockets. They have to be prepared to take the pain of not watching their club in order to achieve a long-term gain. Supporters have to be galvanised to say, ‘We will not come. We will not buy programmes and merchandise’.”
When I see what Harris is saying here I wonder about his intentions and whether they are real or not. He is a businessman, and as shrewd as they come, is he doing this for the club’s loyal supporters or more for the purpose of trying to get rid of the Glazers? He has to be careful where he treads because United fans will be eager to see if he has the best interests of the club at heart, otherwise the idea of boycotting season tickets will just lead to other things. This is an emotional issue for the fans; I suspect many of them will not have any intention to stop watching their team. If everyone was to look at this realistically then only an organised boycott, and one on a big scale, is likely to get the attentions of the Glazers and possibly get them thinking. After all, Harris has claimed that “getting the money is the easy bit” when referring to the takeover, so it remains to be seen how he backs up these words and what other methods he has- there is every possibility that the boycott is not the only thing in these initial stages.
If Harris’s main agenda is to do with season tickets then he has to figure out the importance between getting the supporters to keep attending matches or the other thing to come out of this- which is the MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) organisation, and they are obviously looking to a change of ownership as well. They currently have over 50,000 members and with chances to significantly increase their numbers they are the ones who are working closely with the Red Knights. Harris has to think again if he thinks that influencing the fans to stay away will not hurt the team- it has the potential to do just that. Sir Alex Ferguson realises that it could affect the team and has dismissed the plan. He said: “As I said I don’t mind people protesting, it’s part of life, I did it myself, I led an apprentices strike, so protesting is not a problem for me, what is an issue for me, or would be an issue for me, if it went against the team’s performance.”
The financial issue at Manchester United is becoming a very delicate one, just witness the fact that a breakaway team in FC United has been formed. For Harris to urge supporters to do something that is not natural is going to put him under the radar because he, leading the Red Knights, want to takeover the club. He might have a chance to prove that he is not only in it for the money, just like other Premiership club owners, but whatever his motives are a club like United will always have a global presence, this in turn leads to strong fans- ones who are not stupid.
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