It is not just at Manchester United where the fans are disillusioned with the Glazer family. Across the Atlantic in Florida, supporters of the Glazers’ other sports club, NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been far from happy at the way their club has been run. The Glazer’s are already widely hated by United fans but if the club’s fortunes start to mirror that of Tampa Bay, the feeling will be absolutely mutinous.
After winning the Super Bowl in 2003 under the ownership of the Glazers, Tampa Bay’s fortunes have suffered. They got to the play-offs in 2005 and 2007, but last season they finished bottom of their division winning a measly three games out of sixteen. It has been an alarming slump and despite the fact that the NFL is in rude health financially, making £2.14 billion a year from TV rights, which is shared equally amongst all the clubs in the leagues, Tampa Bay are only spending £54.75 million on player wages, by far the NFL’s lowest.
On the weekend Tampa Bay suffered the ignominy of a TV blackout, due to the team failing to sell all their tickets, which is a rule in the NFL. In a 65,900 capacity stadium, just 41,554 fans showed up, the lowest since they moved to the stadium. It has been a remarkable fall from grace, and it may well set alarm bells ringing at Old Trafford.
The issues of debt that Manchester United have been saddled with since the Glazers took over has been well publicised. The Glazers borrowed £559 million to buy the club in 2005, which have been put on to Manchester United to repay, that figure has since ballooned to £716 million, due to interest and other charges.
Many fans were unhappy when the Glazers took over, with fans organising protests against the Americans. Recently, the ‘Green and Gold’ movement has become a popular and powerful one, with David Beckham even sporting a scarf after a Champions League game against AC Milan. The movements impact has already been seen, for the first time since the stadium expansion in 2006 the club failed to sell all of its season tickets this year, echoing the situation at Tampa Bay.
The club has already seen a deal of comparative frugality over the last two years, with Sir Alex Ferguson buying young players for small fees. A far cry from when the club spent big money on the likes of Juan Veron, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. Ferguson insists this is his choice, and that he cannot see value in the market for big name players, he has a point here, but it will not stop the conspiracy theorists from believing that there is no money to spend at the club. Many believed that the Glazers should never have been allowed to buy the club and the dark days Tampa Bay are experiencing will certainly not give United fans a sense of positivity.
Manchester United are still of course one of the top teams in England, and will be challenging for the major honours come the end of the season. Their fortunes on the field are far better than Tampa Bay’s, and their gap in ticket sales comparatively minor. But for fans who are already worried about the future of Manchester United, Tampa Bay’s woes will certainly not be filling those supporters with confidence. The Green and Gold movement is likely to grow if the club do not experience success this season, and the Glazers will be plunged into unfathomed depths of unpopularity if United’s fortunes begin to mirror that of Tampa Bay.