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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 June, 2005, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Man Utd fans say battle continues
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter

Nick Towle, head of Shareholders United
Nick Towle: "We are in this for the long term"

Manchester United fans have accepted that US tycoon Malcolm Glazer will soon have 100% of the club's shareholding and complete control of the club.

Shareholders United (SU) says it is only a "matter of weeks" before he has full control but doubts he will own the club for more than "four years".

But the fans say they have 2m pledged to their "phoenix fund" to buy a stake if Mr Glazer has to sell up in future.

SU will also launch its own merchandise to deprive Mr Glazer of fans' income.

The group, which says fans have pledged shares to SU totalling 2% of the club, is also set to issue a guide to supporters about how to boycott Man Utd's major sponsors such as Vodafone, Nike, Pepsi, and Budweiser.

Quick exit

SU believes Mr Glazer will "exit within three or four years" whether he makes a success of running the football club or not and they want to be "at the table" to buy a stake of Man Utd.

"We hope Malcolm Glazer's stay will be as short as possible, and over the coming seasons we will pursue a twin-track strategy to reclaim United, " said Nick Towle, SU director and chairman.

Anyone who thinks we are just a flea on an elephant should think again
Oliver Houston, Shareholders United

Mr Glazer, via his Red Football bid vehicle, has borrowed 265m secured against Man Utd's assets and has a further 275m in other loans. SU believes this debt could prove to be his weak spot.

"Firstly we will put pressure on his business plan, which is built on a mountain of debt, " said Mr Towle.

"The way that debt is structured means he has a period of breathing space in the next few years, then the punitive interest rates start hitting him.

"He is expecting us, the fans, to pay for all of his borrowing but that is not going to happen."

Catering boycott

SU hopes that by disrupting Mr Glazer's income stream, he will find it difficult to meet debt payments.

"Real United" merchandise, including an alternative kit, will be sold at the Real United megastore on Sir Matt Busby Way in Manchester. A new red Phoenix crest has been designed for the kits.

Supporters will also be encouraged to boycott match-day programmes and catering facilities at the stadium.

Malcolm Glazer
Mr Glazer's business plan has come under scrutiny

Mr Towle said: "We are in this for the long term. A lot of people are saying it is all over bar the shouting but for us this is just the beginning." He still thinks it will be possible to buy a stake of Man Utd in the long term, thanks to the second strand of the SU strategy, the "phoenix fund".

"This will begin life with several million pounds, from the sale of our members' shares to Mr Glazer, and from other contributions, " said Mr Towle.

SU will hold Phoenix fundraising events, including a concert at the start of the football season, and the release of a CD which will hopefully feature Primal Scream member Mani.

"Anyone who thinks we are just a flea on an elephant should think again," said SU vice-chairman Oliver Houston.

Mr Glazer has extended the deadline for shareholders to sell remaining shares to him for 3 each until 1500 BST on 27 June.

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