Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer has written to fans acknowledging the “need for change” and better communication, promising investment in the squad and Old Trafford as well as talks about widening share ownership.
Having controversially taken over at Old Trafford in 2005, long-standing fan anger towards the Glazer family reached a new peak in the wake of April’s botched attempts to join a breakaway European Super League.
Last Sunday’s Premier League match against Liverpool was called off due to anti-Glazer protests, which came two days after supporters expressed disgust, embarrassment and anger during an emergency fan forum.
The supporters said “change is needed and the club must act now” in a letter that set out a five-point plan that they requested a written response to within seven days, which they received from Joel Glazer on Friday.
“I was personally humbled by parts of your letter, as you explained so clearly why our initial support for the European Super League left you feeling angry and let down,” the executive co-chairman and director said.
“I would like to reiterate my sincere apology for the mistakes that were made.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in.
“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.”
While Avram Glazer refused to apologise when approached in the USA this week, his brother Joel attempted to placate fans amid talk of another demonstration before Thursday’s rearranged match against Liverpool.
“I want to reassure you that my family and I care deeply about Manchester United and feel a profound sense of responsibility to protect and enhance its strength for the long-term, while respecting its values and traditions,” he said the day after reaching the Europa League final.
“Our top priority is, and will always be, competing for the most important trophies, playing entertaining football with a team comprised of top-quality recruits and some of the world’s best homegrown talent.
“Under Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), we feel we are absolutely on the right track.
“Success on the field must be underpinned by solid foundations off it. We have supported sustained investment in the team over many years, and that will continue this summer.
“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.
“As part of this, we will consult with fans on investments related to the stadium and the matchday experience.”
It is hard to imagine the Glazers would have broken their silence had it not been for the unrelenting pressure they have been under over recent weeks.
However, Joel Glazer has even pledged to attend the next fan forum to discuss matters, with talks about a fan share ownership mechanism to continue with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust.
“Indeed, one of the clearest lessons of the past few weeks is the need for us to become better listeners,” he said. “To this end, I can commit the club will engage across all of the issues raised in your letter.
“To highlight some specific points, 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.
“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.
“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, with the aim of putting fans at the heart of the game and ensuring their interests are advanced and protected.
“These commitments are a starting point for further dialogue, including all the specific points you raised, rather than final proposals.
“We want to work together to come up with an ambitious package of measures which will transform our relationship with fans and strengthen the club for the long-term.
“In this spirit, we will reach out to members of the forum to schedule a meeting in which I shall participate as soon as possible after the final game of the season.”
MUST tentatively welcomed the seeming change of tack by the Glazers but said actions are needed, not words.
“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,” a statement read.
“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.
“The onus remains on the club to put right the problems of the past, not just the European Super League but the overall lack of communication and consultation by the owners.
“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.
“Through all this, our goals remain the same and as set out in the open letter to Joel Glazer. We want a new Manchester United, with a meaningful shareholding for supporters and a meaningful say in key areas.
“This is our objective, and there will be no let-up until we get there.”