Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Green and gold protest leaves Manchester United boss Gill seeing red

The Manchester United chief executive David Gill has described the United fans involved in the 'green and gold' protest against the Glazer family ownership as 'a minority' and suggested that many people who wear the scarves do not even understand the nature of the protest they symbolise.

Gill also said that he was confident that the heavily-criticised Glazer ownership with its debts of £716m — around £500m of which are directly loaded onto the club — could be sustained by United's profitability.

He dismissed the putative Red Knights takeover as unworkable.

Speaking in detail about the club for the first time since the bond issue in January that refinanced £504m of the Glazer debt, Gill said that the American owners had never denied Sir Alex Ferguson the money to buy a player.

The club will disclose today in their quarterly accounts that they have around £95m in their cash reserves which they say will be at Ferguson's disposal in the summer. Gill's comments are sure to re-ignite the debate with the supporters' groups who in protest against the Glazers have adopted the green and gold colours of Newton Heath, the 19th century team who became United.

They have been personally critical of Gill who has been at the club since 1997 and, as the chief executive in the previous plc regime, initially resisted the Glazer takeover.

Gill said: “The green and gold campaign and the momentum behind that can get a bit tiring.

“We understand people's desire to protest and I think it is a minority. It's a visible minority in the stadium (and also) if you look at our fans around the world where we

have many. Would we prefer not to have them (green and gold scarves)? Yes. Would we prefer to have the stands full of red and white? Of course we would. Are the (anti-Glazer) chants every game unfortunate? Yes, they are unfortunate. They have a right to protest. A lot of the fans clearly care about the club and that is a strength.

“But a lot of the other fans want to know that the team is playing attractive football, exciting Manchester United-style football, winning football. They want to come to a safe stadium with modern amenities and enjoy it. Who owns it is a bit irrelevant to them.”

The green and gold protest was launched largely in response to the document that accompanied United's bond issue in January which disclosed that the Glazers had the provision to pay themselves up to £9m a year in fees from the club as well as servicing a debt that costs around £45m in interest payments a year. Gill said: “I think that (the green and gold) minority will go away. I see people from Asia walking out the (Old Trafford) megastore with a red and white scarf on and they just assume they (green and gold) are official scarves and go and buy one. I think there is an element of that. A lot of people understand what it means but a lot of them don't.

“They (fans protesting) are not going to change their opinion even if we win three Champions League titles in a row. We couldn't have been much more successful in the three years we won the league (2007-2009) during which we were Champions League winners and runners-up and won the Carling Cup.

“But they are never going to be happy. I firmly believe that the financing we have in place and the growth we have seen in our commercial operations. Even with the (annual) interest of £45m we can sustain that and still be a top, top club. We can invest in the players, invest in the training ground — we have plans for that — invest in the stadium and do those things.

“I understand people's concerns but that has always been the case. There have always been people who have not been happy. Very few football clubs are happy with their owners.

“Chelsea are happy with Roman Abramovich, Manchester City with (Sheikh) Mansour but very few football clubs are happy because the fans always want the best players, low ticket pricing, this, that and the other.”

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