Friday, May 20, 2005

Glazed Over

So Malcolm Glazer has taken over Manchester United. The chain of hysterical over-reaction that this has triggered is quite something else altogether. Even Donald Trump's blustery hyperbole can't match some of what I'm reading at the moment.

For the record, I am in passively violent opposition to the takeover. Not because of what it may or may not mean in direct impact, but because of the strike it represents to the heart and soul of the team and club that I have passionately supported for somewhere between 20 and 25 years.

A man who could manage to be so disrespectful as to formally launch a takeover bid on February 6th, of all dates on the calendar, relinquishes all right and opportunity to be respected or liked by fans. Forget for a moment that he is saddling a highly profitable enterprise with debt, or that he has probably never set foot in Manchester, leave alone Old Trafford. Simply having chosen to act on February 6th places him a rung below the airplane-imitating Leeds fans on the evolutionary totem pole.

Contrary to what the American media would have us believe, through op-ed pieces in even the Wall Street Journal, this has nothing to do with Glazer having been an America. The reaction would have been much the same had he been from Italy, Argentina, Australia or Antarctica. Of course, the odds of someone from a football-aware nation acting in this manner are not quite as high.

Save for the amusing rumour about Joel Glazer once having dinner with someone who supported Tottenham Hotspur, the Glazers appear to know even less about football than the ESPN pundit, Tommy Smyth. They certainly have displayed no comprehension of what Manchester United is all about. And yet there is a sad truth we have to face before spouting too much vitriol in their direction. The reality, and simultaneously the fundamental problem, is that none of this is about emotion, about football, or about the rich history and tradition of Manchester United Football Club. It's about dollars and cents, plain and simple.

The Irish sold out to Glazer, because they made a killing in doing so. Much the same way you would be doing now if you had got in on the Google IPO. Glazer is in this because he thinks, or has been advised, that there is a money-making opportunity here. Perhaps he delusionally fantasises about one-upping Roman Abramovich. Whatever the mechanism, he's in it to make a buck. We fans may dread the possibility that he will destroy the fabric of the club, but the gut-wrenching reality is that these are the risks a PLC runs.

I despise what is happening, but as a devoted Red, unless I win the lottery several times over and can afford to buy him out myself, I'm starting to realize that I my best option might be to hope against hope that this can somehow be managed without the club I care so deeply about becoming a casualty of economic war.

Fans are being encouraged to boycott sponsors, not buy merchandise, and even stop attending games. My heart suggests that I follow suit - strike Glazer where it hurts, and don't pause to wonder if I am cutting my nose to spite my face. And then my head weighs in on the debate, telling me that to do so will, in all probablity, only hurt the club. Glazer isn't backing out now - he's pumped his own money into buying 75% of the shares, and he wants it back and then some.
To boycott is to presume that at some point he will choose to cut his losses and walk away. Sadly, he doesn't strike me as that sort of a man. He was nothing if not insanely persistent in his efforts to buy the club, and it stands to reason that he will pursue profit-making with the same zeal.

I don't have the answers. You could justifiably contend that Glazer will take the club downhill all by himself. As with all economic analyses, the presumption of rationality is the point at which it all breaks down.

The only thing I do know is that come Saturday, I will be right behind the boys at Cardiff.