In an open letter to potential new club owners, the Manchester United Supporters Trust demands that ownership represent supporters “from all backgrounds and walks of life.”
Fans have urged potential owners to follow 12 guiding principles in an open letter written by M.U.S.T., including paying off the club’s debts, abiding by U.K. public company regulations, governance and transparency, and continuing to support the club’s women’s squad.
Open Letter to bidders
To any bidder for Manchester United Football Club:
“We, the undersigned, represent Manchester United fans from all backgrounds and walks of life.”
“Manchester United is the greatest sporting institution in the world. We fully comprehend your desire to purchase the club.”
“We hope that the club will have a new owner who will take care of it, make investments, and, most importantly, understand that their job as the club’s steward is to manage the team in collaboration with the fans, acknowledging that a football team is much more than just a business asset.”
“It may be useful for you to understand what supporters want from any new owner to win their support as you think through the nature of any offer you may desire to make to the current owners.”
“The guidelines below are founded on the Supporters Trust’s long-standing values and frequent, transparent dialogue with its supporters.”
Statement from Manchester United Supporters' Trust on bids submitted to buy #mufc: pic.twitter.com/VZ6Ycsqg18
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 19, 2023
12 Key principles
1. Debts: Manchester United’s current owners turned the team from one with no debt to one of the most indebted football clubs in the world. That debt has hung over our necks like a millstone and has never been paid off. Any winning bid should not be based on debt and should include a promise to pay off current debt and fund future capital expenditures by issuing new shares to replace any existing debt.
2. Equity: Football club owners should donate to their team rather than take from it for their gain, just like all other owners do. The club has struggled for a while, and the current owners have taken hundreds of millions out of business. Failure should not be rewarded, and the club should always come first in allocating profits.
3. New Capital Investment: Investment to upgrade the stadium and training facility, as well as provide long-term assurances on the money that will be available to spend on players for the men’s squad, women’s team, and youth setup. We want to know how much money you intend to put into the club’s playing side and facilities like the stadium.
4. Shared ownership: ownership in a joint venture with the supporters. The club should raise money by regularly issuing shares to supporters, paying off debt wherever possible, and increasing supporters’ collective tiny ownership position. There should be one class of shares with equal voting rights for all shareholders, as opposed to the current dual-class share structure.
5. We expect you to maintain the same standards of corporate governance, reporting, and openness even if you decide not to list Manchester United as a public company in the U.K.
6. Structures should be added to the formal corporate governance to guarantee that the fans’ voice is heard at the highest level. To improve independent representation, the existing club structures of the Fans Advisory Board and Fans Forum should be expanded. In addition to the appointment of appropriately independent directors to the main corporate board, the fans’ interests should also be reflected there.
7. For supporters, heritage concerns such as the club’s colours, name, home field, and stadium name are of utmost importance. Fans’ explicit approval should be required before any consideration of changing them.
8. The shirt’s badge should be changed to “Football Club” once again.
9. The women’s team, which is a crucial component of the club’s future, should be developed, supported, and promoted by Manchester United.
10. The playing roster and Manchester United’s brand should continue to emphasise youth development and the Academy system.
11. The club should swear off ever again trying to compete in anything resembling the European Super League, and any suggestion to alter the competitions the team participates in should be subject to the explicit approval of the fans.
12. It is crucial to have a clear strategy to keep match tickets accessible to regular fans, particularly the next generation of supporters, including preserving the present ticket price freeze and giving growth in other income streams priority.
Any wise owner should not view the conditions mentioned above as unreasonable or excessively demanding because they are being put forth in the best interests of the team and the supporters.