(WFI) Manchester United CEO David Gill promises to share his thoughts on the Red Knights plan to mount a takeover bid in a session at the Soccerex European Forum today.
Gill twice dodged questions on the issue during a European Club Association press conference at the football business summit on Monday, accusing one journalist of being “disrespectful” in wondering whether United should listen to an offer to buy the club from the Glazer family.
He said any questions about takeover speculation should be addressed during his 1-to-1 interview taking place from 3.30 to 4pm.
Gill reacted angrily when quizzed by another journalist as to how seriously United was treating a potential bid from the Red Knights, a group of millionaire fans who are keen to oust the Glazers.
“I have made it very, very clear. I apologise if you are disappointed. But you are going to be disappointed. I have no comment to make,” he said.
The Knights said in a statement yesterday they need to find at least £1 billion to launch an offer for United who have reported debts of £716.5m.
The ECA announced at Soccerex that its 144 member clubs from 53 countries have won concessions from UEFA over the implementation of new financial fair play rules, delaying the full introduction from 2012 to 2015.
The ECA’s general assembly approved a plan which calls for clubs to break even over a three-year period to comply with the UEFA rules if they want to take part in the Champions League or Europa League. Under the financial controls, large cash injections from ‘sugar daddy’ owners would be banned. Limits on equity investment will be made.
The ECA rejected a UEFA proposal that only clubs with a turnover of 50million euros should be subject to the new system; all clubs, large and small, will treated the same.
ECA board member Gill insisted the defending Premier League champions would comply with the new rules.
“We as Manchester United have always been run professionally and will continue to be run professionally,” he told the press conference.
“I think this is a step in the right direction for making sure that clubs do operate within their own resources. Across football generally in Europe there is a lot of money coming into it and there is no reason that clubs should not be able to operate within that.”
ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge insisted the agreement on UEFA’s proposals was a “huge achievement” that would provide greater stability for clubs.
“We have clubs are who losing every year more than 100 million euros. I am convinced if we go ahead like this it’s only a question of time that the football industry will have big, big problems.
“I believe it is now a good moment to intervene and I have a feeling that the solution is coming from the clubs,” said Rummenigge, who said he had “positive” discussions with English Premier league CEO Richard Scudamore in a meeting on Monday.
“It is a good sign for European football that clubs are ready to do something to come back on a rational way, on a more responsible way. I am convinced that we have just winners, nobody will lose. I said that yesterday to Mr Scudamore.”
One of Soccerex’s unique selling points – frequently espoused by its CEO Duncan Revie, whose father Don was one of English football’s most
illustrious and notorious names – is that it remains true to the game’s roots. As well as all the marketing men and business heads, there is always a fine smattering of those who starred in a more innocent, infinitely less commercialized era.
On the scene yesterday were Paul Reaney and Allan Clarke, towering figures in Don Revie’s great Leeds teams, and opening the ceremony was Johnny Williamson, who played alongside Revie senior in the 1950s.
Williamson told delegates about how he earned £7 per week in the early-1950s with a pound-a-point match bonus. The cultural gulf of those days and football’s cash soaked present was in evidence as some delegates seemed to think the old-forward was joking; likewise when he said that the game was better in the old days.
Asked by compere Matt Lorenzo what the main difference between football then and football now was, Williamson said that it was much more attack-focussed in the 1950s, replying sweetly: “They played with one at the back then – the goalkeeper. Now they play with one up front.”
To the England 2018 workshop, at which the bid hosted a workshop where technical director Ian Riley stood in for bid CEO Andy Anson – who was in transit on his way back from a lobbying trip in the Caribbean.
Joining him were Northwest Regional Development Agency executive director and Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council.
Mearns said that a World Cup in England would produce economic benefits of £500-750 million for the north west. But given that the region’s twenty professional clubs (including the two Manchester and two Merseyside giants plus four other EPL teams) between them generate just £800 million over an entire season it seems difficult to understand how he arrived at his figure.
The engaging Bernstein pointed to the German World Cup and how it turned into a month long party as a compelling reason for England to host the 2018 tournament.
“We shouldn’t apologize too much for wanting to enjoy ourselves,” he said with a glint in his eye. “I think that’s a very important part of how a country should function.”
Prior to Riley’s short presentation a video showing English fans’ ‘passion’ for the game was shown. Incongruously it centered on footage of England’s friendly defeat to Brazil in Doha last November – a game the Qatar 2022 bid committee frequently invoke as an example of the country’s ability to stage a world class event.
Had, as one wag asked, the Qatar team been in beforehand and switched DVDs?
Burnley FC may be second from bottom in the English Premier League but they are occupying one of the top positions in the Soccerex exhibition hall.
Located near the entrance and on a walkway to the Russian World Cup bid stand, Burnley have been showing off their Turf Moor redevelopment plan. The only EPL club exhibiting here are keen to tell delegates about the country’s “first football university”, a plan to breathe new life into Burnley.
It would be built next to a new ‘StadiArena’ stadium stand, a multipurpose facility that would stage exhibitions, rock concerts and conferences.
Burnley CEO Paul Fletcher and the club’s operations director Brendan Flood are spearheading the project.
In a special edition newsletter being distributed at Soccerex, Fletcher says: “The Premier League is a billion-pound industry, but the game is much bigger than one league, so this university will allow students to learn everything about sponsorship, commercial activities, television and the media, stadium design and management.”
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