The Sweeper: Man Utd Fans’ Protest Goes Green and Gold


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Another day, another Glazer debt story at Manchester United: today, the Telegraph reports that “Accounts for United’s holding company Red Football Joint Ventures Limited for the year to June 2009 reveal that the total debt secured against United and the Glazer family’s holding increased by £17 million.”

Will the constant drip-drip of these stories stir greater fan protest against United’s ownership?

Of course, many United fans have been protesting for a long, long time, dating back at the least to the protest in the 1990s against Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to takeover the club, to the later formation of FC United of Manchester. The founding of Shareholders United Against Murdoch eventually led to the formation of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), today in the forefront of protest against the Glazers. Witness the “Love United Hate Glazer” banners unfurled and then quickly (and some say violently) taken down at Old Trafford at the weekend.

In the Mirror today, Oliver Holt (a Stockport fan himself) waxes lyrical over the supporters who have stood up:

I admire the supporters who unfurled the ‘Love United, Hate the Glazers’ banner at the Stretford End on Saturday.

I admire the Spirit of Shankly fans who are trying to defend Liverpool from its American owners.

I admire the Stockport County supporters who walked from Edgeley Park into Manchester to highlight the club’s financial plight at the height of the winter freeze before Christmas.

I admire the people who have made AFC Wimbledon such a success and still rage against the way their club was stolen from them by Milton Keynes Dons.

And the disaffected United supporters who set up FC United of Manchester and who have stuck to their principles as their club has risen through the non-league pyramid.

They didn’t just sit there and munch on their prawn sandwiches when the Glazers took over.

They saw what was coming and they tried to mobilise more United fans to protest with them but the club, to their shame, snuffed the protests out.

Sir Alex Ferguson turned his back on those people, too. He got another Champions League victory out of it, I suppose, but now he’s suffering the consequences.

I hope they keep it peaceful but I hope United fans step up their protests about what is happening to their club.

I hope they continue to make life awkward for the Glazers. I hope they keep taking that banner to games and unfurling it.

Because the rape of so many of our football clubs relies in some part on the silence of the fans.

It relies on supporters accepting meekly the bland and hollow explanations they are given.

It won’t be news to regular readers of this blog that we like to bang the drum for supporter activism. What’s interesting to see is that it seems a tipping point has been reached in terms of more and more “moderates” willing to protest against the Glazers. Where MUST and other leaders of supporters’ protest take their action next could be hugely important for English football. Take this one United blogger and season-ticket holder, long a skeptic of MUST, a fan who viewed the Glazers wearily but accepted the fate of the club was lost to them (“If you regularly read this blog, you will know that i am a bit of a moderate when it comes to the subject of Glazer’s ownership, but now there is talk of ground sales and whatnot, and my fellow fans are genuinely upset, I’m starting to get itchy feet.”)

The blogger goes on to explain that he received an email from MUST, saying that:

I will admit i am not their biggest fan. I totally get the sentiment, but i suppose i don’t know enough about them (as people) to really give them my full backing. The email contained the first thing that has fired my imagination regarding all of this. It explained an idea by the lads at Red Issue. The idea was about a visual impact that we could have at games. They suggest that we revert back to the clubs original colours of Green and Gold, as in the Newton Heath days. This would stand out against the Red and White of Old Trafford, and allow us to be individually identified as those against our club being dragged through the mud..

This is just one fan, of course, but protests like this that even what some might unkindly call the sheep at Old Trafford can easily get behind suggest the Glazers PR machine is doing no good (reportedly sending their bond debt prospectus to players isn’t going to help, either), and even Ferguson’s support for the regime is no longer having much impact. As the blogger concludes, ”Its time to get active. And if a moderate like me feels like that, there must be trouble on the way. So don’t go out tonight, unless you’re green and gold.”

Worldwide News

  • This isn’t directly football-related, but there has been considerable interest in our series on the future of American soccer journalism (and the same dynamic roughly applies the world over), so the world’s eyes will be eager to see if the New York Times’ limited access “metered” model works in 2011. Colour me skeptical for now.
  • But why do we need something like this to work? So a company like Sports Illustrated can afford to send Grant Wahl to Angola for the Africa Cup of Nations (they were planning to send him there before the Cabinda tragedy, incidentally).  Wahl has an excellent piece up on his trip:  ”I’ve seen plenty of examples over the years when sports and politics mix, when the world’s most popular pastime and the pursuit of power combine to turn fútbol into anything but the simplest game. But I haven’t ever been in the middle of such a palpably tense situation like this one in Cabinda, a complex landscape mixing soccer and politics, fear and violence, nationalism and rebellion.”

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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