Minister: we'll stop the likes of Glazer

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Indy Politics

The Government is considering changing the law to prevent future hostile takeovers of football clubs after the raid on Manchester United by the American tycoon Malcolm Glazer, it was reported last night.

The Government is considering changing the law to prevent future hostile takeovers of football clubs after the raid on Manchester United by the American tycoon Malcolm Glazer, it was reported last night.

Mr Glazer's £790m acquisition of United cannot be halted, but it is believed the Government wants to limit the exploitation of clubs by foreign owners in the future. One method being looked into is a return to the "public interest grounds"that blocked the club's takeoverby Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB six years ago.

United's fans are also stepping up their campaign to block a complete takeover of the club by organising protests and boycotts of merchandise and the club's big-business sponsors. Some fans are planning to disrupt next week's FA cup final in Cardiff by invading the pitch before kick off and blockading entrances. Shareholders United, a professional organisation that buys shares in the club for fans, is urging a boycott of companies such as Vodafone, Nike, Budweiser and Audi.

"We want to send a signal that they are going to suffer along with the club if they support Glazer," said Nick Towle, a corporate lawyer and chairman of Shareholder's United. "It will be a rolling and growing campaign." Sean Bone, the company's vice-chairman, said: "We've heard the sponsors are already getting itchy about the whole situation. We believe one-third of the club's revenue comes from merchandise, so if we can hit Glazer there it can have a real impact."

The group owns about 2 per cent of the club and hopes to increase its stake to 2.5 per cent.

Already one Oldham-based businessman has pledged to switch his company's mobile phones from Vodafone. Paul Whatmore, 53, said: "I am a director of a publishing company in Oldham and I plan to give my support to the fan's protests. We have been Vodafone customers for 12 years but we will switch to O2."

Mr Glazer won control of the club on Friday with a £790m bid and is close to securing the 75 per cent he needs to de-list it from the Stock Exchange. He may transfer £540m in debt to the club. Fans, who have watched previously great clubs such as Leeds United almost go bust after taking on unmanageable debt are fearful the takeover will damage Man U.

They also claim that Mr Glazer's previous track record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an American football club he owns, has seen him hike ticket prices and the price of merchandise.

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