Joel Glazer (left) apologised to fans in an open letter after the Super League debacle
Manchester United are finalising plans for a new fan advisory board in the clearest demonstration yet of the Glazer family’s bid to improve relations in the wake of the European Super League (ESL) debacle.
The new board will comprise seven supporters and up to five club executives and is due to meet quarterly, with one of Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer, United’s executive co-chairmen, attending at least once a year.
United hope the move will open up a new channel for “in-depth dialogue on fan-related issues and strategic matters” as they bid to put the failed ESL plot behind them.
In addition, the existing Fans’ Forum will also be expanded to offer fuller representation of the club’s diverse supporter base and progress is being made in discussions with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) to create a fan share scheme which would give supporters access to a new class of shares with the same high voting rights as the Class B shares held by the Glazer family.
The Glazers have previously only sold Class A shares, which have one tenth of the voting rights of the B shares and meant the owners have been able to raise millions without ceding any control of the club.
The moves follows months of talks between the club, fan representatives and MUST after the collapse of the widely reviled ESL in April that sparked furious protests and led to United’s Premier League game against Liverpool the next month being postponed after fans stormed Old Trafford to vent their anger.
Joel Glazer apologised unreservedly for their role in the failed plot in April and vowed to “show that we can put things right” after United’s American owners were left shaken by the ferocity of the reaction.
“Although the wounds are raw and I understand that it will take time for the scars to heal, I am personally committed to rebuilding trust with our fans and learning from the message you delivered with such conviction,” Glazer said in an open letter to fans at the time.
There were huge protests outside Old Trafford after the European Super League plans were announced
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
The message was reinforced when Glazer attended a fans’ forum meeting last month and stressed his commitment to the creation of a fan advisory board and a fan share scheme as part of a move to ensure supporters’ opinions were “embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club”.
The Glazers have faced severe criticism and protests since buying United in a hostile takeover in 2005 over the money that has been sucked out of the club to service a huge debt mountain and for failing to engage with fans. However, the ESL controversy appears to have forced a shift in strategy from the Glazers, who have been taking various steps to try to get fans on side.
The terms of reference and composition of the new fan advisory board and expanded Fans’ Forum have been agreed in consolation with the existing Fans’ Forum and MUST. Membership of the Forum, which will remain in place as a wider representative body to address fan questions and concerns and meet quarterly, will be increased from 11 to 16.
Additions to the Forum will include representatives from Manchester United Women Supporters’ Club, youth supporters under 21 and international members.
The Fans’ Forum will then elect two of its members to the fan advisory board. MUST will have seats on both bodies, with the process of recruiting to the two bodies to begin in the coming weeks. Detailed work on the fan share scheme is continuing.
Collette Roche, United’s chief operating officer, said: “We are pleased with the progress made so far towards building a framework for more effective engagement between the club and its supporters.
“As Joel Glazer told the Fans’ Forum in June, we are committed to strengthening fan representation and the role of fans at the heart of the club; and the new Fan Advisory Board and expanded Fans’ Forum will help that process.”
In addition to the fan advisory board, fan share scheme and expanded Fans’ Forum plans, the Glazers have communicated that they have “big plans” for Old Trafford after criticism over a lack of investment in the stadium.
Season ticket prices have been frozen for a ninth consecutive season and season tickets for Under-16s have been discounted in all parts of the ground.
Next season will see a rail seating trial for up to 1,500 seats in the north-east quadrant of Old Trafford and the family section is being relocated to help accommodate an expanded singing section in the Stretford End.
United are also making headway in their bid to strengthen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad with Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane in line to join the club following the £73 million arrival of England winger Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.