Football: Militant fans try to warn off Glazer allies

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OPPOSITION TO Malcolm Glazer's proposed takeover of Manchester United took a menacing turn last night when a militant fans' group issued veiled threats of violence against anyone - including United's board and Glazer's advisers - who assists the American in his buy-out attempt.

A statement from the "Manchester Education Committee", which has been involved in previous "warning off" attacks on those it considers to be predators of the club, said: "The consequences of any takeover bid need fully spelling out for all parties concerned." Using jargon more akin to a paramilitary edict than a fanzine, the MEC warned United's directors that supporting Glazer would be considered "treachery" and that "collaborators ... will be punished."

In a message to Glazer's son, Joel, who is a key figure in the bid, the statement said: "No matter how large the phalanx of bodyguards you bring, Joel, we will always outnumber you."

Financial institutions supportive of Glazer were warned: "The Committee will hunt down all key fixers and backers of any successful bid and demonstrate the folly of their greed . . . It is our club, and we will be ruthless in protecting it."

In a separate development, new legal and financial analysis of Glazer's proposed offer warned that United could face the same dire financial fate as Leeds United if Glazer buys the club.

Glazer's latest bid for United involves less conventional debt than his last offer but there are concerns that "disguised debt" in the new package might actually prove more costly and dangerous to United's long- term financial health.

The analysis, commissioned by the Shareholders United group, has been sent to United's chief executive, David Gill, who is due to convene an emergency board meeting this week to consider Glazer's bid. It suggests that "little or no new money will be provided by Glazer himself" for the new bid; that financial constraints under new ownership could lead to player sales to balance the books; and that extra equity in the bid, raised by a special share issue might, in effect, have the negative effects of a high-interest loan.

SU is being advised by Weil Gotshal, a leading merger and acquisitions law firm, and Inner Circle Sports, which provides financial analysis for major City institutions. It is claimed that Glazer's business plan relies on certain assumptions, including hiked ticket prices and an ever-present place in European competition. "In the very likely event that these assumptions are not achieved we believe that the case of Leeds United provides an instructive example of what the consequences could be for Manchester United," the analysis says.

Nick Towle, the chairman of SU, has written to Gill, appealing to United's directors not to "sacrifice the club on the altar of profit and commerciality".

Glazer, 76, owns 28.1 per cent of United. It is widely assumed he would pursue an aggressive commercial approach to ownership. Old Trafford would almost certainly be renamed in a rights deal, and ticket prices would rise.