Old Trafford bosses with something to worry about.
Manchester United failed to reach their target of season ticket sales this summer, the club’s chief executive David Gill has confirmed.
But Gill insisted the figure is still “pretty good” in the current economic climate and that the club is in good financial shape.
Gill said the number of season tickets sold was 51,800 compared to the target of 54,000, and that executive seat sales were “on track”.
United’s season ticket sales have been conducted against a backdrop of a campaign by fans’ group the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) urging a boycott in the hope of persuading the American owners, the Glazer family, to sell the club.
Asked about the season-ticket protest, Gill told Press Association Sport: “I’ll be clear on that. Last year our target was 54,000 season tickets, we’ve sold 51,800, which is pretty good in the current climate.
“We’ve sold more season tickets than the capacity of most Premier League grounds. Our executive seat sales are on track as compared with last year in a different market.”
The protest against United’s owners surrounds the debts they took on to buy the club. These now stand at more than £700million – including a £500million bond scheme, and £202million in payment in kind (PIK) loans.
Duncan Drasdo, the chief executive of MUST, said the season ticket shortfall was “a tipping point” in the Glazers’ ownership. He pointed out that other clubs had sold out despite the slump.
Drasdo said: “We have clearly reached a tipping point in the Glazers’ ownership. Up until this season they increased ticket prices aggressively every year and could get away with it because the loyal fans they forced out were replaced by others still prepared to pay the increased price.
“However this season, despite a ticket price freeze and an unprecedented marketing campaign, there are still thousands of season tickets and hospitality packages unsold.
“The failure to sell out season tickets is very significant as the Glazers depend on an excess of demand over supply to exert control over supporters.”
Drasdo insisted part of the failure to sell out was due to fan dissatisfaction.
He added: “Other clubs have sold out under the same economic conditions so clearly other factors have come into play.
“There is huge dissatisfaction with the way the Glazers have exploited the supporters and the football club and thousands of season ticket holders chose not to renew for that reason while others are simply unhappy at the lack of investment in the squad while the owners continue to take millions out of the club.
“No wonder the Glazers are loved by Manchester City fans as much as they are disliked by United supporters. The sooner we are released from the millstone of their ownership the better.” (Independent)
Read between the lines and it seems evident that Manchester United must be worried about the seeming lack of take up on season ticket sales. Whilst David Gill may like to put a different spin on the situation the fact is that many clubs have sold out their season ticket allocation in a matter of days and whether this is due to dissatisfaction on the terraces is another point entirely.
MUST mobilized themselves expertly last season and will do so again this term and the relative lack of action in the transfer market will have many believing this was down to lack of forthcoming funds rather than Sir Alex now wanting to splash the cash on further additions.
The argument that economic conditions are to blame for the drop in season ticket sales is predictable as it is misleading. Even in the current climate Man United would expect to have hit the same targets as last term and the fact they didn’t will cause concern at the very top.
Will the Glazers be toppled this season? Quite possibly and this latest bit of bad publicity will have knock on effects with sponsors and advertisers and will surely be countered with yet more action from fan groups like MUST who are very much intent on ringing in the changes as they look for owners they believe can do a whole lot better to serve arguably the biggest football club on the planet.