Financial upturn for Red Devils

MANCHESTER UNITED’S owners have strengthened their financial position despite the protests against them after releasing figures showing increases in revenue and profits.

With a group of financiers called the Red Knights confirming their interest in a possible takeover, the Glazer family can point to a rising turnover and profits at the club. The figures for the six months up to December show turnover up 19% to £144.7m (€159m) from £121.7m (€133.8m) for the equivalent period in 2008.

The debt dropped from £538.1m (€591.6m) to £507.5m (€558m) and there were increases recorded in matchday revenues, TV money – particularly from the Champions League – and commercial revenue.

Media revenues have increased 33% from £40.3m (€44.3m) to £53.4m (€58.7m) and commercial revenues up 16% from £33.5m (€36.8m) to £38.7m (€42.5m).

The total debt of Red Football Ltd, the Glazers’ holding company, was registered at £716.5m (€787.7m) at the start of the year, leading to a renewed protest against the owners.

Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill – acting in a personal capacity – lawyer Mark Rawlinson and merchant banker Keith Harris have launched the Red Knight group and discussed a potential takeover.

Described as a group of “high net worth individuals”, the Red Knights include O’Neill, chief economist at Goldman Sachs and a one-time friend of Alex Ferguson.

Although plans are at a very early stage and no contact has been made with the Glazers, who have always stressed they are not interested in a deal, a meeting in London on Monday between the key individuals involved in the Red Knights project went through various scenarios and will now look at formulating a plan to raise in excess of £1billion.

“We can confirm that a group of high net worth individuals, who support Manchester United (known as the “Red Knights”), met in London yesterday,” a statement read.

“This group is supportive of current management but are looking at the feasibility of putting together a proposal to be put to the Glazer family regarding the ownership of Manchester United. These discussions are in early stages and no contact has been made with the Glazer family.”

Leading football deal-maker Keith Harris is also involved and has previously suggested some kind of boycott may be required to reduce United’s current profits and wreck the Glazers’ present business plan.

There is certainly a groundswell of opinion against the Glazers and the current “Green and Gold campaign” so in evidence at Wembley on Sunday has proved incredibly popular.

As a starting measure, the Red Knights are urging supporters to join the Manchester United Supporters Trust, which has been vehemently opposed to the Glazers from day one.

“For such a proposal to be viable it would require the involvement and support of Manchester United supporters worldwide,” the statement continued.

“The Red Knights have been liaising with the Manchester United Supporters Trust and their representatives attended yesterday’s meeting.

“As a first step, the Red Knights want supporters to demonstrate their commitment by joining the free online membership of the Supporters Trust, www.joinmust.org.

“Any new ownership model would aim not only to put the club on a sound financial footing, but would also aim to put the supporters at the heart of everything the club does.”

Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of MUST, welcomed the move: “We were present at the ‘secret’ meeting of the Red Knight Group and have been involved in discussions for some time. This development is hugely welcome as there is a desire to see a change of ownership at Manchester United.

“Initially the Red Knight Group has effectively set a challenge to Manchester United supporters to demonstrate they wish to see an alternative ownership proposal developed.

“In the first instance supporters are being asked to do this simply by joining the free online membership of the Supporters Trust (MUST) and swelling its ranks to an initial target of at least 100,000.”

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