Manchester United have announced they are to create a Fan Advisory Board “to ensure the fans’ perspective is embedded within the club’s decision-making processes”.
United also said they had initiated a “direct dialogue with MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) with the aim of identifying a mutually beneficial Fan Share Scheme”.
The announcement came after United co-chairman Joel Glazer attended his first fans’ forum on Friday.
Glazer said in a statement on United’s official website: “I was pleased to join the fans’ forum to listen to the views of supporters, address their questions, and share ideas on how we can improve the way we work together.
“As owners, we want exactly the same thing as the fans – a successful team and a strong club – and we want to work in partnership to achieve those objectives.
“Fans are the lifeblood of Manchester United and I am personally committed to ensuring that they are given an enhanced voice, through the creation of a Fan Advisory Board and a Fan Share Scheme.
“The club has been in discussions with MUST regarding a fan share scheme for a number of months and has already sought external legal advice on options. Discussions will now intensify, with the aim of agreeing a plan before the start of the new season.”
United said the proposal was the creation of an advisory board “to consult with the club’s senior leadership and owners” that will be made up of “representatives from the Forum and key fan groups to ensure the fans’ perspective is embedded within the club’s decision-making processes”.
Regarding the share scheme, United said it would “involve a new class of shares which will each carry the same voting rights as the shares owned by the Glazer family”, adding: “This would establish a foundation for supporters to build a meaningful ownership stake and create a new spirit of partnership with the club.”
A statement from MUST said there had been a “frank exchange of views” in Friday’s meeting and that Glazer had been “held to account on a series of issues including debt, dividend payments, tickets prices, lack of investment in the stadium and lack of engagement with supporters for 16 years.”
It described the share scheme as “potentially revolutionary”, and said: “MUST is cautious about whether this Fan Share Scheme will meet their own tests before they give it approval as despite the huge concession on voting rights that this proposal signals as ever the devil is always in the detail.
“In particular, despite Joel Glazer’s assertion that this will be ‘the largest fan ownership group in world sport’, MUST is concerned that there is a risk that the scheme will limit the number of such fan shares made available so reducing the opportunity for this to achieve a meaningful collective fan ownership stake – and ultimately with the potential to result in a change in control of the club.”
MUST called on United fans to sign up to its forthcoming ‘Sign For United’ campaign, which aims to “demonstrate the huge appetite amongst United support for a better model of ownership which embraces the fans at its heart and in so doing compel the club to deliver a really revolutionary Fan Share Scheme which will both excite the fans and also exceed their demand for shares”.
There has been long-standing anger among United supporters towards the Glazer family, who took over the club in 2005.
That reached a new level after it emerged in April United and their fellow ‘big six’ Premier League clubs had agreed to join a new European Super League – something they then pulled out of amid intense pressure. Anti-Glazer protests on May 2 then led to the home match against Liverpool being postponed.
Glazer, who had apologised for “mistakes that were made” with regard to the ESL plan, also said in Friday’s statement from United: “Our goal is to win every competition we compete in, and we will continue to invest in our academy and in the transfer market to support the manager (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) in an effort to meet the club’s goals.
“As a club we have devoted a lot of time and resources over the last several years updating and further developing our vast global scouting network to adapt to the modern football environment. This is a project that should provide a foundation for long-term success in the years to come.
“In addition, as you all know, we have also been focused on growing and developing our women’s team in line with the traditions and values of the club, and we are committed to continuing that process.
“Old Trafford is at the heart of Manchester United and while we have spent over £100m over the last 10 years on infrastructure projects, we will now accelerate the process of planning much more significant investment and upgrades to the stadium…rest assured, we will consult with supporters throughout the process to end up with a result we can all be proud of.
“The same goes for our training ground. Preliminary planning work is already under way and there will be significant funding available to further enhance our facilities and ensure they remain world class.”