The Glazers have dismissed reports that they are preparing to sell Manchester United to the Qatari royal family, using the release of the club's second-quarter financial results to issue a statement saying they remain "fully committed to long-term ownership".
It is the second time in less than a year that United's American owners have made such a claim, but it is unlikely to quell mounting speculation that a sale to Qatar Holdings is on the horizon. It has seen the value of United's bonds climb to record levels in recent weeks, but the Glazers are unlikely to sell unless offered a huge sum, estimated at between £1.5bn and £1.8bn, and the current figures do not make that a realistic price.
The statement said: "The board notes recent press speculation regarding a possible bid for Manchester United. The owners remain fully committed to their long-term ownership of the club. No discussions have taken place, Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers."
Earlier this week the Glazers confirmed they remain 100 per cent owners of the club after claims of Qatari involvement. In November the family paid off £220m of payment in kind loans, although mystery surrounds the source of those extra funds. The Glazers took over United in a leveraged buyout for £790m in 2005. The club's debts now stand at £489.4m.
Yesterday's figures revealed that the club's commercial revenue continues to rise dramatically, up more than 30 per cent on the second quarter of last year. This is largely due to a succession of commercial partnerships, such as the recent agreement with DHL, that has generated more than £50m and demonstrates United's continuing global appeal. But media revenue and matchday revenue have seen little change. Supporters' groups are claiming a fall in matchday revenue, albeit of only £300,000, as the impact of the Green and Gold protests. The business analysts Sport+Markt have also released figures which they say point to a fall in merchandising revenue as a result of supporter action.
Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters' Trust, said: "Clearly with pressure building on the Glazers from many angles – not least the decline in matchday revenues confirmed in these financial results – it makes sense for them to exit now, given a willing buyer. It seems the only obstacle is the outlandish price the Glazers appear to seek. Bad relations with supporters directly impacting on the bottom line – surely this is only the tip of the iceberg as the damage to supporter affinity impacts on future sponsorship values, too."