'Glazers' passports not an issue'
Manchester United chief executive rejects UK MPs' tough criticism and says American owners have long-term plan
David Gill delivered a staunch defence of the Glazer family yesterday during hostile questioning by Members of Parliament about Manchester United's owners.
The club's chief executive, who was giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee's inquiry into football governance at the House of Commons, said the debt loaded on to United by the Glazers did not affect the running of the team. He added the Glazers had increased the club's income, had delegated communication with fans to himself and Sir Alex Ferguson, and were taking a "long-term" view.
Gill was told, by Tom Watson MP, that it "should be an embarrassment that a great British institution like Manchester United" was owned by a company registered in Delaware (a US state noted as a corporate haven). "Not at all," Gill responded.
The chief executive added: "Manchester United Football Club Limited is a UK company. The ultimate owners might be in Delaware but where are the owners of Chelsea [based]? It doesn't matter. Our ultimate ownership is 100pc Glazer family. Their passport is not an issue. You can have very bad British owners. It's about the right owners, not the right passport. We understand that football is an important part of the economy and social fabric of the UK and act responsibly."
Questioned over the club's debt, Gill was forced to admit "it would be better in some respects if the debt was not there," but insisted: "It doesn't hamper the club, it doesn't impact what we do. It has no impact in terms of transfers.
"Net spend on players has been greater. We have improved the facilities and the training ground. We have increased from 460 to 600 employees. We have seen great growth in terms of turnover. The Glazers have taken a view of longer-term investment than had previously been the case [at United]. They saw commercial opportunities. They have brought a lot of initiatives."
Gill said the Glazers were not alone among owners in not speaking directly to supporters, adding he speaks to a supporters' forum three or four times a year. Gill defended the refusal to engage with the Manchester United Supporters Trust "because their avowed intent is to change ownership. It would be strange and inappropriate to communicate with them."
Gill also defended Wayne Rooney's recent pay rise, and the conduct that led to it. Responding to the suggestion by Paul Farrelly MP that it was "outrageous" and "sent out a message that bad behaviour is rewarded", he said: "I don't think it is outrageous. Wayne Rooney is a great player for his country and Manchester United and we want to keep him. The club depends on success. We have a self-imposed cap of 50pc of turnover for salaries and we will pay players appropriately."
Gill, and Peter Coates, the chairman and owner of Stoke City, both suggested the Football Association bring in two non-executive directors, as was suggested in the last report into its structure. "The FA is not completely broken," said Gill, who is an FA Board member, "but it needs some stability." He also suggested making the disciplinary arm "semi-autonomous" as "a lot of the FA's bad press comes from that".
In later evidence, Lord Mawhinney, president of the Football League, warned that the new system of parachute payments, which will hand relegated clubs £16m a year for four seasons, would "undermine the integrity of the Football League". He added: "Next season there will be four clubs receiving £16m, and 20 clubs receiving £4m."
Independent News Service