Depending on your point of view, the supporter protests at Old Trafford were either the work of a minority intending to bring shame on Manchester United or a long-overdue uprising from fans that have simply had enough of being taken for mugs.
Whether or not you’re a supporter of the Red Devils, if you identify as a football fan then surely you can sympathise.
The proposed European Super League was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back, and nowhere was that more clearly evidenced than in Manchester.
The thing is, we’re always told that football is nothing without the fans, and yet fans are told nothing when the big decisions need to be made.
How is it that a club so storied as Manchester United can have owners that simply ride roughshod over every single person that has spent their hard-earned cash on membership, tickets, travel to away games or merchandise in the club shop? It’s about time supporters were shown more respect.
Statement from a group of Manchester United fans about a protest to demand 50+1. pic.twitter.com/S03a8RCXs8
— Andy Mitten (@AndyMitten) April 23, 2021
Take Barcelona’s model as an example.
Every socio member pays in the region of £160 per year to entitle them to discounts on tickets and merchandise, as well as priority for the big games and other offers.
Most importantly, however, they’re also entitled to a vote in the presidential elections and any other decision that could require an amendment to the club’s long-standing statutes.
Simply put, the president may be the custodian of the club, but nothing important gets done without the express permission of a certain majority of the membership.
One of the biggest clubs in the world – accountable to its supporters. How Man United could learn a thing or two.
Back in 2005, some 16 years ago already, FC United of Manchester sprang up in response to the Glazer’s ownership even then. The Northern Premier League side are one of the most high-profile fan-owned clubs in the UK.
Still reading – and hearing – the same old dirge that #MUFC fans are protesting against the Glazers only because of a strop re lack of trophies.
Did I imagine all the protests from 2005-2010 when they were serial Premier League winners and getting to Champions League finals? 🤷🏼♂️
— Daniel Taylor (@DTathletic) May 4, 2021
There are just shy of 50 fan-owned UK clubs currently, all in the lower divisions. AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, AFC Liverpool and Newport County are four of the more well-known, however, if things don’t change dramatically in the upper echelons of the English game in the next 12-18 months, there could be quite a few more to rival them.
Football was already becoming far too expensive for the working man, whether they wanted to take their family to games or even just watch their team on the box.
If supporters continue to be treated like second-class citizens, only there to line the pockets of billionaire owners, the protests at Old Trafford will be small fry compared to the uprising that will come further down the line.
Another suggestion has gained traction in the wake of the Super League debacle too; the 50+1 ownership model popular in Germany.
Essentially, private investors are only allowed a maximum of a 49 percent stake in any Bundesliga clubs, meaning the supporters have the majority holding.
This then guards against the type of situation that Man United have found themselves in for years, and other clubs, such as Chelsea (Abramovich) and Arsenal (Kroenke) would be unable to take any decisions to prioritise the profit of their clubs unless supporters are consulted and are agreeable in the first instance.
FC Pinzgau Saalfelden from the Austrian third tier and managed by former Liverpool and Tottenham star, Christian Ziege, have a vehicle appropriately named ‘Fan Owned Club’ which allows supporters to buy shares in the club and have a say in almost every facet of the business. Is that the way things should go in England?
Maybe the other answer is to finally have genuine fan representation on the boards of clubs and not supporters there as mere stooges.
Let’s not forget and be crystal clear… fans are the lifeblood of the game and their voices need to be heard.
It’s time they were listened to.