The ‘integral’ role of supporters to the success of Manchester United will be stressed to new prospective owners and investors, Richard Arnold has said.
The Glazers are seeking to bring to an end their highly-controversial 18-year ownership of United after they put the club up for sale last year by welcoming new prospective outright buyers and investors.
The Raine Group – who oversaw the sale of Chelsea, eventually sold to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital for £2.25bn – is conducting the search for a buyer. It is reportedly hoped that this will be arranged before the end of the season.
Richard Arnold has stressed that supporters will remain an ‘integral’ part of the club’s structure moving forward – even under new ownership
Arnold, Manchester United’s chief executive, told the fans’ forum last month that his commitment to the increase in fan engagement since the breakdown of the planned Super League breakaway will not waiver under new ownership.
‘What’s clear is that fans will be integral to the success of Manchester United under any ownership model, and we see this body as an important part of the club’s governance structure irrespective of what happens with the strategic review.
‘Certainly, we will be advising any prospective new investors on the value of the fan engagement processes we have built in recent years, and recommending that they continue to be strengthened,’ he said.
Arnold has sought to improve supporter engagement relations since the breakdown of the Super League plot
United have strived to improve fan engagement following the breakdown of the planned Super League project which involved all of the Premier League’s ‘top six’ clubs.
That led to widespread protests, even while the United Kingdom was still in the midst of a Covid lockdown that stretched into the early spring.
United’s home fixture with Liverpool that season had to be postponed owing to around 100 or so supporters breaking into the stadium and accessing the pitch.
Measures brought in since then have included the creation of a Fan Advisory Board, extensions to the fans’ advisory board and a fan share scheme – which has failed to get off the ground despite promises made by the Glazer family. A United spokesperson told the Guardian in April last year that: ‘significant progress has been made, but this is a complex project and we are continuing to work towards a robust and attractive proposal for fans.’
The Glazers are seeking buyers for Manchester United as they look to bring the curtain down on their highly-controversial tenure of ownership
Manchester United’s chief executive was unable to give a clear update on progress of the sale
The encouraging words from Arnold come after a joint-statement from supporters groups around the world last month urging new owners to reverse the steep decline they feel the club has experienced under the ownership of the Glazer family.
‘We hope that we will have a new owner that will nurture, invest and, most of all, recognise that their role as the steward of Manchester United is to run the club in partnership with the supporters, in a way which recognises that a football club is far more than just a commercial asset,’ the letter read.
Arnold stressed to the fans’ forum, held on December 13, that he could not say much beyond the statement that had been released by the Glazers during the World Cup on the potential sale of the club.
‘As part of this process, the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the Company,’ he said.
Supporters stormed the ground in May 2021 following the breakdown of the Super League breakaway
‘This will include an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, and expansion of the club’s commercial operations on a global scale, each in the context of enhancing the long-term success of the club’s men’s, women’s and academy teams, and bringing benefits to fans and other stakeholders.
‘When and in what form that investment comes remains uncertain, but I feel confident in saying it will be a positive process for the club because we all understand the capital needs that we have, in terms of redeveloping the stadium and training ground while continuing to build a winning team.’
The minutes of the fans’ forum also revealed that as of December 13, 2,000 ticket touting-related sanctions had been issued with a further 500 cases still in the appeals process. As of that date, United had only played six home fixtures.
Sam Kelleher, the club’s head of ticketing and membership, said: ‘As you can see from these figures, it continues to be a real problem which directly impacts fans who want to come to watch the team play and are, through no fault of their own paying above face value often for “fake” or doctored tickets.’