It has been a tumultuous 10 days for football supporters across Europe following the failed launch of The Super League, a situation that brought to the forefront of people's minds the issue of club ownership.
Although on course to finish runner-up to Manchester City in the Premier League and on the verge of reaching yet another European final, fans of Manchester United have long had issues with the American billionaire Glazer family who bought the club in 2005. But what next for those who want to force through a coup, and do the numbers even stack up?
How much would it cost to buy Manchester United?
Forbes currently values United at just over £3 billion, behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and just ahead of Liverpool and Manchester City. That is about a billion more than the value of the shares in the club and almost four times more than the £790 million valuation when they were bought by the Glazers – using mainly bank loans – in 2005. United are also still more than £450m in debt, meaning buying them would likely cost a prospective owner a lot more than £3bn.
Who could afford to buy the club?
Even a billionaire would struggle outright – certainly without the kind of leveraged buyout utilised by the Glazers that many United fans oppose to this day. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man with a net worth of around £12bn, is a lifelong United supporter and has previously been linked with a takeover at Chelsea. However, he bought Nice instead, with his brother, Robert, ruling out purchasing a Premier League club because of the cost. That would leave American and other foreign multi-billionaire businesspeople or Arab royalty as the only realistic suitors. A fan buyout – even merely of a sizeable stake in the club – would require the willingness of millions upon millions of supporters to invest.
Are there any buyers out there?
Unlike with Arsenal, who have been the subject of a very public takeover bid by Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek and a team of ‘Invincibles’ led by Thierry Henry, there have been no known moves to buy United since the collapse of The Super League. The most recent takeover talk was almost two years ago when Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammad bin Salman was linked with a £4bn bid. But Saudi interest in football has been focused more recently – and controversially – on Newcastle United, who would cost more than 10 times less to buy. United were the subject of a potential £1.5bn takeover in 2010 by the so-called ‘Red Knights’ group of City financiers, lawyers and wealthy supporters but that came to nought.
Do the Glazers want to sell?
They may have not issued a definitive statement like the Kroenkes at Arsenal but there are no indications the Glazers would entertain a takeover bid, despite the new wave of supporter protests against them. They are said to believe they can more than double the current value of United to £7bn, even after the collapse of the revenue-guaranteeing Super League. United has also been a money-spinning investment for them, with the family having paid themselves dividends worth tens of millions of pounds in recent years. Additionally, they still own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who this year won their second Super Bowl under the Glazers since their 1995 takeover, demonstrating the family are in sport for the long haul.