Opinion: Fans have little voice in Man Utd plc

Manchester United fans may have been celebrating their team's defeat of Manchester City this week, but they are certainly not happy with Malcolm Glazer, a rich American businessman who is making his third attempt to take over the club.

They proclaim that 'MUFC is not for sale', conveniently forgetting that the club they support isn't a club at all but a plc with a multimillion-pound turnover and an obvious takeover target.

Despite this, the Man Utd fans have for many years understood the value of good PR and also have the advantage of counting among their number high-profile supporters such as Greg Dyke. He certainly knows a thing or two about using the media to get his message across and was instrumental in stopping a Rupert Murdoch takeover of the club some years ago. In that case, though, all he had to do was get the Treasury to recommend a review from the mergers commission to scupper the deal. Stopping Glazer will be much more difficult.

A major problem facing the supporters is that the rest of us don't really care who owns Man Utd. Another problem is that the fans' organisations seem to be split, with more militant elements seeming to be prepared to break the law in order to stop Glazer.

Last time round, one tactic adopted by disgruntled fans was to target Brunswick, the PR firm that then worked for Glazer. According to reports, it was inundated with nuisance calls and phantom pizza deliveries. The way things are running now, Glazer needs a firm of bodyguards more than a PR shop. But if he did want to re-employ another PR firm for his new bid, there would still be plenty of interested parties.

But does it really matter if Glazer is about as popular in Old Trafford as Robbie Fowler? The supporters may say that Man Utd is 'our club' but it isn't. It belongs to the shareholders. Jim White, one of the most respected sports writers in the country and a keen Man Utd supporter, wrote in The Daily Telegraph this week that the board and shareholders didn't want Glazer either, but they will if he coughs up enough money.

White also said that the fact that the fans didn't want him running the club was even more important. It isn't. Since when have supporters stopped paying at the turnstiles or buying shirts and satellite dishes because the club has a new owner?

Glazer can hire the best PR brains in the country to support him. It might make some difference to how he's viewed by the fans, but what would really work is if he takes over and Man Utd won the Champions League again.

A visit to the fans 'unitedrant' website includes pornographic mock ups of Glazer and calls for the resignation of the whole Utd board simply for complying with the law relating to takeovers.

The fans may think they matter but they don't.

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