Manchester United's owners the Glazer family have never denied Sir Alex Ferguson transfer funds, says vice-chairman Ed Woodward - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Manchester United's owners the Glazer family have never denied Sir Alex Ferguson transfer funds, says vice-chairman Ed Woodward

 

Manchester United did not miss out on signing the Brazilian midfielder Lucas Moura because of a lack of transfer funds and the Glazer family have never denied Sir Alex Ferguson the resources to sign a player, the club’s vice-chairman Ed Woodward said today.

In a wide-ranging interview on the club’s ownership structure two months after the Glazer family floated ten per cent of the club on the New York Stock Exchange, Woodward, who runs the club’s London-based commercial operation, said that servicing the owners’ debt had no impact on United’s transfer policy.

The battle-lines over the Glazer ownership, now in its eighth year, are well established, with fierce opposition from sections of the United support and despair among fans’ groups at the estimated £500m that has gone on servicing the debt, as well as legal fees connected to the 2005 takeover.

United’s relatively low impact in the transfer market in recent years - a trend which changed to a degree in the summer with the signing of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa among others - has also raised suspicions that the servicing of the Glazers’ debts have restricted Ferguson in the transfer market.  Moura, 20, eventually signed a deal that will see him join the Qatari-funded Paris Saint-Germain in January.

Woodward said: “The Glazers have never said ‘No’ to Sir Alex’s request for a player. There is no difference between staying as a plc [the corporate structure of the club pre-May 2005] or the Glazer takeover in terms of the team on the pitch.”

Woodward said that capacity crowds at Old Trafford were an indication that the majority of supporters were happy with the club and the considerable successes of the last seven years. “We do have a majority of very happy set of fans because of what happens on the pitch,” he said. “The purchase of Robin van Persie was an example of Sir Alex buying players and always being allowed to buy players he wants.

“There was no secret about bidding for Lucas and three years ago trying to buy [Karim] Benzema. The money has always been made available to him. That is the disconnect [with the supporters]. There is a thought that if ‘X money’ has gone out the door - ignoring the extra money that has come in [through increased commercial revenues] which you should argue should be counted – it would have been spent on players. But it wouldn’t.”

He added that despite opposition to the Glazer takeover, which was financed with £525m of debt loaded directly into the club, the current level of debt – around £360m – was sustainable.

Woodward said that there was a need to “communicate” better with fans. The Glazer family have so far done one interview – Joel Glazer, with MUTV, on the day of the takeover.

The club’s aggressive new approach to sponsorship has landed them the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in football history with Chevrolet – £350m over seven years, starting in the 2014-2015 season – as well as a number of deals based on “segmentation” of territories and products. Recent deals include a Japanese soft drinks manufacturer and an Azerbaijan telecoms company.

As a result, Woodward said, annual commercial revenues have grown by £100m since the Glazer takeover. Ferguson himself has argued in recent years that there has been “no value” in the transfer market. Woodward said that he would not discuss why certain potential transfer targets had not joined the club but denied that funds had never been an issue.

He said: “I’m not the person who manages the football team. Sir Alex and David [Gill, chief executive] have their own views as to the players they want to go after and who Plan B might be if they are not comfortable with certain levels ... that is all discussed with Joel [Glazer, chairman] and signed off with the three of them on the phone in a quick manner.

“It can be a whole raft of reasons [that a player does not sign]. It can be the change in the players’ attitude through the negotiations. It can be an agent getting involved in a certain way that changes things. Or someone turning their head for a different reason, and all these things can happens.”

The price of the United shares listed in New York has fallen from $14 (£8.7) to $12.30 (£7.60) currently, despite initial plans to list at as much as $18 (£11). Woodward said that he had no fears about the share price in the long-term as long as United continued expanding their business plan which includes pursuit of new sponsorship deals through a newly-opened Hong Kong office and another in New York.

He dismissed comparisons between United’s falling share price and Facebook’s disappointing stock market debut. The strenuous opposition among fans to the Glazer’s leveraged buy-out, which has included the establishment by disaffected supporters of breakaway club FC United, and the ‘Green and Gold’ campaign that was at its height around three years ago, had not, he said, materially affected the club’s popularity with sponsors.

“We have continued to sell sponsorship deals, or MUTV deals or mobile deals, whatever it may be, all the way through the last seven years. A great deal has happened in the last seven years, particularly in the last five. We even did all these deals through 2010 when things were perhaps at their most choppy because of the bond [the major refinancing of the takeover debt]. That should answer it. Our shirt sales go from strength to strength.”

“The debt is tiny compared to the value of the business. The coverage of the interest payments is small. Communicating that is not easy. I try to do the best I can to explain we are completely relaxed. It is like having a tiny mortgage on your house and the person in the house has got richer and richer through income and the mortgage is going down.

“I really hope that we can continue to communicate and get fans comfortable and demonstrate that we are financially strong by buying players. Obviously that helps so that they don’t feel concerned. They really shouldn’t be concerned.”

The levels of the club’s debt were sustainable, Woodward said, on the key indicators such as ratio of Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, deprecation and amortisation) - which was £109m in the last accounts - to total debt. He also denied that the match-attending supporters had been forced to bear the cost of the Glazers’ ownership through disproportionately steep rises in ticket prices.

“The previous seven years up to the takeover in 2005 it was 5.5 per cent increase [in ticket prices] year on year. The average now is four per cent. I would argue that four per cent is not much relative to inflation. When the Glazers bought the club it was the 19 most expensive ticket in the league out of 20 for the best product and we are now 7 or 8 [on a recent survey United’s cheapest ticket was the 12 least expensive]”

“If you look at the Kop prices they are about 25 per cent more than the Stretford End [Liverpool’s cheapest season ticket is £193 more than United’s]. We should be sensitive for ticket price increases, but hopefully you have seen in the last few years as we have developed commercial business, ticket prices have pretty much been flat.

“The blended average growth is four per cent. Two years ago when Liverpool put their prices up ten per cent, we were zero. I think they are fair prices. We sell out every Premier League game.”

United will benefit from the new Premier League television deal next season, which is pnds3bn over three years, and the sale of digital media rights. They will also begin renegotiating their kit supplier deal with Nike who have a six-month exclusivity period starting in February. Given that the original deal was done in 2001, it is expected there will be a significant improvement.

The club believe that there is much more scope to do sponsorship deals in the current market, to the extent that all that is holding them back is the speed at which they can train staff and open new offices. “I don’t feel like we are anywhere near base-camp,” Woodward said. “This [London] office is now full. We are ‘half-populated’ in Hong Kong. There is so much to do, it’s ridiculous.”

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week