Angry Gill hits out in first joust with Red Knights
Manchester United's chief executive David Gill yesterday went on the attack in his first joust with the so-called Red Knights who hope to buy the club from the Glazer family.
Gill claimed that the unpopular Americans were at United for the long haul and was particularly scathing about the group's prime mover, the former Football League chairman Keith Harris, whom he condemned as a publicity seeker.
Meanwhile, the green and gold anti-Glazer campaign organised by the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) was claiming huge support, having almost tripled its membership from 36,000 a month ago. Last night it was fast heading towards 100,000.
"I understand the opposition," Gill said. "We've experienced it for many years, since Rupert Murdoch tried to take over the club in 1998. We have 330 million followers round the world. Within that, it's likely you'll have some dissenters but I think the vast majority should be confident with what we're doing."
Asked about the self-styled Red Knights, who met Must representatives in London on Monday, he said: "Keith Harris will go anywhere there's publicity, we know that and accept that. That's his modus operandi but I don't think his track record in football is anything to write home about. The idea of having 20 or 30 or 40 very wealthy people running Manchester United -- I just don't know how that would work. The best run clubs are the ones with clear, single, quick and efficient decision-making. People who've become wealthy through brains, not luck, want in my experience to become involved in decision-making."
Gill was speaking at the Soccerex business forum in Manchester, where he gave a 30-minute interview on stage without accepting any questions from the audience or the media.
When discussion turned to the Glazers, who upset many supporters by loading so much debt onto the club when they bought it in 2005, he said: "The owners are very long-term owners, which they've shown with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which they bought back in 1994-5. They aren't sellers. That's not to say people like these Red Knights can't come and put a plan to them but if they don't want to sell, then they can't buy the asset."
The Glazers have valued the club at £1.2bn and Forbes.com's annual report suggests an even higher figure of £1.25bn, making United the biggest sports club in the world. The Red Knights have admitted they will need to find at least £1bn to make an offer and United appear confident that they will not do so. (© Independent News Service)