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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Why Glazer wants Man United
By Andrew Fraser

Manchester United fans prepare to burn season ticket forms in protest
United fans fear season ticket prices will rocket under Glazer
It seems safe to say a love of sport is not Malcolm Glazer's main motive for seizing control of Manchester United.

The US tycoon is rumoured to have once celebrated a touchdown for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers gridiron side with great gusto - until someone told him he was cheering on the opposition.

So it is unlikely Glazer initiated a 790m takeover just so he could sample the joy of soccer in the company of 68,000 fans who will certainly not be telling him to have a nice day.

Manchester United is the richest club in the world, ranked top in terms of income by Deloitte and Touche for the past eight years.

And Glazer appears determined to make it - and himself - even richer.

United's board voiced concerns last month about the "aggressive" nature of Glazer's plans, which may give a hint of things to come.

The 76-year-old is reported to have increased ticket prices at the Buccaneers in every season since he took over in 1995, and United fans expect him to do the same at Old Trafford.

Current prices are low compared with some of United's main rivals, leaving room for manoeuvre, and corporate hospitality and refreshments are other possible target areas.

Merchandising could be less profitable, as United's merchandising rights are now controlled by Nike.

Glazer has a reputation for maximising corporate sponsorship.

Bought Buccaneers for $192m in 1995
Brought in new coaching team
Ditched old mascot/changed team colour from orange to red and black
New $200m stadium in 1998
Won Super Bowl in 2003
Bucs now worth four times as much as in 1995
United already have lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike, Vodaphone and Budweiser, but there is always the naming rights to Old Trafford.

Tampa Bay's new stadium was named the Raymond James Stadium in 1998 in a deal with a financial company, and Arsenal's 100m link-up with Emirates highlights the potential for the Premiership's big guns.

United have already made moves to maximise their global earning potential with tours to the United States and the Far East.

Glazer's marketing expertise in the US would leave him well placed to promote United in his home country, but the number of major sports and teams competing for dollars makes it a tough market to crack.

There is also the question of whether enough United fans in the Far East can afford to, or will choose to buy official merchandise when cheaper counterfeit goods are freely available.

It is widely believed that Glazer's main battleground will be television rights.

These are currently sold by the Premier League as part of a collective agreement with the 20 top-flight clubs, with the money shared out between them.

It has been estimated that United could make 15m a year more if they sold their rights individually, as European rivals like Real Madrid and Juventus do.

Fans of other clubs who are crowing about it should wait and see
Football finance expert
Alan Flitcroft
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore does not believe the other clubs would allow them to go it alone as a two-thirds vote would be required to change the status quo.

The European Commission's dislike for collective agreements could offer Glazer some hope if he decided to mount a legal challenge to the current arrangement.

But Alan Flitcroft, a football finance expert at Ernst and Young, told BBC Sport that problems with individual bargaining in Italy and Spain had softened the EC's stance.

"More realistic would be to negotiate for a greater share of what is currently on offer," he said.

"That could be done either by changing the way the current cake is allocated, or by pushing to be able to sell Manchester United's rights overseas.

"But that is certainly not going to be easy for him to achieve."

Hand in hand with Glazer's commercial masterplan has to be the need to keep Manchester United in the best possible shape on the pitch.

"The first thing he has to do is pay interest on his debt just to stand still, which means diverting profit which would otherwise have been reinvested in the club," said Flitcroft.

"He will have to find the right balance, but I'm not so sure it's a doomsday scenario. All the fans of other clubs who are crowing about it should wait and see."

Report: BBC News' James Pearce


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