Joel Glazer has promised to “accelerate” discussions regarding fans owning shares in Manchester United and acknowledged the need for change called for by supporters disgruntled with his family’s ownership.
The co-chairman made the comments in an open letter to United’s fans forum, which has 11 representatives of match-going supporters. It is understood the Glazers hope for a period of calm to allow for consultation after Sunday’s protests at Old Trafford became violent.
United fans said before Glazer’s letter that they would stage another protest against the owners before Thursday’s rearranged game at home to Liverpool, with one group indicating they aim to cause a further postponement.
“As one of the few European football clubs listed on the public markets, we believe in the principle of fans owning shares in the club,” Glazer wrote. “We have previously engaged with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust on fan share ownership and we want to continue and accelerate those discussions, together with provisions to enhance associated fan consultation.”
It is understood that Glazer is ready to meet with fans. “In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you [fans forum] as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in,” he wrote. “We also recognise the importance of fan and football interests being embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club, and we are open to constructive discussions on how to reinforce that principle.
“We recognise that the government-initiated, fan-led review of football is a positive opportunity to explore new structures for fan engagement and influence. I can assure you that we will willingly and openly engage in the review.”
Glazer’s statement is the first since Sunday’s protest which caused the match with Liverpool to be postponed. It comes after the Glazers apologised last month for their involvement in the now defunct European Super League and follows Manchester United Supporters Trust writing to the Glazers on Monday and demanding a response by Friday.
In its letter MUST pointed to how the Glazers had never engaged with it during their 16-year ownership and outlined a four-point plan. These were to “rebalance the current ownership structure in the favour of supporters and engage [with] and promote the government initiated fan-led review of football”; immediately appoint “independent directors”; apply a “share scheme accessible to all” and “offer no opposition to the Glazer shareholding being reduced to a minority or being bought altogether; and “commit to full consultation with season-ticket holders on any changes, including competitions we play in”.
Glazer also promised to invest in the stadium, there having been no structural changes to Old Trafford signed off by the family.
“We recognise that we will need to significantly increase investment in Old Trafford and our training complex to ensure that the club’s facilities remain among the best in Europe,” he wrote. “As part of this, we will consult with fans on investments related to the stadium and the matchday experience.”
MUST said: “The response could in theory – and we emphasise in theory only – be a change in direction and approach by the owners versus their silence and disregard for communication over the last 16 years. We will, however, determine our position based on the resulting actions rather than these words alone. We have seen empty words too many times previously. We will seek a mandate from our members and from the wider fanbase before proceeding. We only wish to engage in this process should our supporters want us to.
“Our primary objective remains to ensure a supporter share scheme is put in place which carries equal voting rights to the shares held by the Glazer family. This scheme would be promoted to the global fanbase and should in turn build a notable stake in the club.
“We want a new Manchester United, with a meaningful shareholding for supporters and say in key areas. This is our objective, and there will be no let up until we get there.”