MANCHESTER: More than 20,000 Manchester United fans have joined the campaign to force out the club’s US owners in the last 24 hours, the leader of the protest group said yesterday.
Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) are campaigning to force the Glazer family to sell the club, which now carries debts of about £716.5mil.
MUST are backing a move by a group of wealthy supporters, known as the “Red Knights” who are planning to raise more than £1bil to buy the club from the US family, who have owned it since 2005.
The Glazers launched a bond issue last month to raise £500mil in a bid to re-align their debts.
Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of MUST, said yesterday that after the Red Knights plans were made public a day earlier, there had been an “incredible uptake” in support of the campaign.
“A month ago, prior to the publication of the bond prospectus, MUST membership stood at 36,000 members. Last night, that figure had doubled to an amazing 78,000 members... now bigger than Old Trafford itself,” Drasdo said.
“The majority of that growth has come in the last 24 hours and with a membership counter ticking over on the website it has generated huge interest. MUST have set an initial, highly ambitious goal of growing to 100,000 members.
“An incredible first 24 hours means we are well on our way and we are now appealing to the millions of United supporters around the world to come together, and show the Red Knights there is a passionate desire to see a better ownership model for Manchester United.”
Meanwhile, club chief executive David Gill said on Tuesday that United continued to be a well-run professional club after they reported an improved financial performance in the first half of their fiscal year to Dec 31.
Revenue increased to £144.7mil with media revenue up 33% and match-day revenue rising 10%, benefiting from two extra Premier League games in the period.
The club cut their pre-tax loss to £1.9mil during the half year, compared with £23.9mil the year before.
The Glazers, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American NFL team, bought United in 2005 for about £790mil against a wave of opposition from fans who feared they were loading it up with too much debt.
“Manchester United Football Club is not for sale,” a spokesman for the Glazer family told Reuters on Tuesday. — Reuters