United We Stand. Divided We Fall: A Manchester United Conundrum

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It would be very difficult for anyone not have noticed what has been happening at Manchester United this year. A fans protest taken to visual levels not seen before, at least within our shores.

Over 150,000 have added their name to MUST’s cause against the Glazer’s ownership of Manchester United and the subsequent debt it has brought.

It must be a great situation to have all the supporters pulling in one direction for the common cause. However that doesn’t seem to be the case, on message boards and in pubs countrywide there are murmurs of discontent with the way MUST have handled parts of this campaign.

Even on MUST’s own website there was a plethora of opposition to the recent tactic of putting pressure on sponsors. A lot of supporters feel this is a step too far and could damage the financial prospects of United much more than any single owner could. The feeling being that if you lose the ability to receive huge amounts in sponsorship because of behaviour now, then you’ll struggle to rebuild that in the future.

If pressure builds on the sponsors to the level of them wanting to pull out then it’s unlikely they’d ever return and unlikely there would be a queue of people waiting to take their place should a takeover happen. It would be difficult to go cap in hand to the business world and say ‘Hey guys, we know we put you under a bit of pressure over sponsorship but we were in a really bad place back then, can we have our money back now please’ and expect much more than a cold shoulder. At best you’d get a situation where businesses interested in sponsoring use this as a tactic to negotiate down the price.

I haven’t seen any official MUST response to these critics on their own website and it would be interesting to see their reply to these concerns.

Meanwhile, IMUSA, another supporters group, have now formally asked their members to not renew season tickets and to spend as little as possible inside the ground. This is meant to be another way of starving the club of income. Over 50% of season ticket holders have said they are considering giving their seats up. How many actually go through with the threat remains to be seen. Whilst the season ticket waiting list is hyped up to be more than it is, like with many clubs, surely a few thousand United supporters would be happy to have the chance of a full season ticket. If leaving supporters are simply replaced by new ones then the only people who seem to be losing out are the people giving up their tickets.

The strength of feeling amongst a lot of United supporters suggests that the heat could now be turned up. The targeting of sponsors and encouragement to drop season tickets could just be the start of a difficult summer for Manchester United.

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