Anti-Glazer protests undermined by record United ticket sales

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The Independent Football

As the Glazer family last night prepared to announce what percentage of Manchester United they now own following the first deadline of their official offer for shares, the club confirmed record season ticket sales that undermine claims of a massive and meaningful anti-Glazer protest.

As the Glazer family last night prepared to announce what percentage of Manchester United they now own following the first deadline of their official offer for shares, the club confirmed record season ticket sales that undermine claims of a massive and meaningful anti-Glazer protest.

Fans groups have vowed to lead a boycott of United's major sponsors, in the hope they will ditch Glazer and undermine his business plan, and have also encouraged fellow supporters not to renew their season tickets. Yet United said yesterday that they have already surpassed last season's sale of 40,072 season tickets, despite a 10 per cent average price rise.

"That automatically puts us at a record level," a spokesman said. "The likelihood is we will sell all our available season tickets, 42,500 of them, by the start of the season."

The Glazer family's 300p-per-share offer to United shareholders formally closed at 3pm yesterday, and it was expected that they would announce how much of the club they owned by 6.30pm. That deadline came and went without confirmation however, and clarification of their holding is now expected this morning.

The key figure under scrutiny will be whether the Glazers have boosted their holding from 76 per cent to above 97.6 per cent, at which point they are legally entitled to issue a compulsory purchase order on all remaining shares. That would give them 100 per cent ownership in addition to the 100 per cent effective control they already have. Total ownership would mean that they no longer have to hold shareholders' meetings, and that they do not have to send annual accounts to shareholders.

Short of 97.6 per cent - which equates to the Glazers' 76 per cent when the offer went out, plus 90 per cent of the shares they did not own at the time of the offer - and supporters' groups might yet stymie, if not prevent, a total buyout.

No matter what happens, Glazer is now allowed to delist the club from the Stock Exchange, something he has already said he hopes to do on 22 June or as soon as possible thereafter.

Nick Towle, the chairman of the Shareholders United group, concedes that there is nothing that can be done to stop Glazer controlling United, but remains hopeful that Glazer's tenure as the owner can be disrupted to the point of damaging his long-term prospects at the Old Trafford club.

"We will wait and see how far he gets [with percentage of ownership], but there are things we can do by law to make life difficult for him and a lot of Manchester United fans want to do that.

"He's been hostile to us and we want to show him we are not going to roll over and die."

SU is continuing to build a "phoenix fund", into which supporters are being urged to pay whatever they receive for the sale of their shares. The theory behind the fund is that SU will build up cash reserves and then invest in the club if the Glazer family eventually relinquish control.

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