Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Manchester United owners Glazers get backing from Gill

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Soccerex, Manchester

Man Utd not for sale - Gill

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has dismissed concerns surrounding the Glazer family, claiming the owners were "running the club the right way".

The club's debt level of £716.5m has prompted much unease among supporters, with one group of wealthy fans - "The Red Knights" - targeting a takeover.

But Mr Gill said: "The Glazers do not want to sell and from our perspective are running the club in the right way.

"The owners are very long-term owners... they are not sellers."

The so-called Red Knights include Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, acting in a personal capacity, lawyer Mark Rawlinson and financier Keith Harris.

Mr Gill said that the group were "credible people" who had "every right to do what they think is right".

But he added there were questions about how a group of up to 40 wealthy individuals would be able to run the club.

Financial stability

There has been criticism of the Glazer regime because a once-debt free company is now carrying large debts.

Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family ownership of the club
Manchester United fans have protested against the Glazer's ownership

The amount of debt secured on the club and the Glazers' shareholding in it is more than £700m according to recent accounts.

However Mr Gill said that a recent bond issue which replaced £509m bank debt with a £512m bond provided financial stability going forward.

He added: "Our financial results show that we can live with [our financial] structure, and enjoy the benefits."

Before the emergence of the Red Knights, United's owners were already under fire over their control of the club from the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (Must) - which is running a vocal campaign to bring about a change of ownership.

Chief executive of Must, Duncan Drasdo, said its membership had doubled to about 78,000 people in the past month - with much of that growth coming following the "Red Knights revelation".

People will see that Manchester United will continue to be a well-run club
David Gill
Manchester United chief executive

Mr Gill said that those Manchester United fan groups opposed to the Glazers ownership of the club were intelligent people with ideas about how the Old Trafford outfit should be run.

But he said the issue had perhaps received the wide coverage that it did because United was such a big club.

And he pointed to the cases of clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, and AC Milan, where it is the owners who make key decisions, not fans.

Mr Gill told Soccerex delegates: "Unless the owners wish to sell, and they have not given any indication to me, then they can't buy the asset - it is not for sale."

'Passionate'

He said that although the Glazer family did not attend every match at Old Trafford they watched them all on television.

"They are passionate about the club, they do understand sport," he added.

He also pointed to the fact that the Glazer family had owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American Football team since 1995, demonstrating their long-term interest in sport.

"People will see that Manchester United will continue to be a well-run club," he said.

"The structure we have in place is entirely appropriate."



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