United chairman quits over Glazer takeover

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The Independent Football

Malcolm Glazer has provided no assurances to Manchester United's board about future debt levels, ticket prices, transfer funds, non-interference in team selection or even Old Trafford's status as a club-owned property, according to United's chairman, Sir Roy Gardner, who yesterday announced his imminent resignation as a result of Glazer's takeover.

In a letter to shareholders who own the 24 per cent of United that Glazer does not already control, Gardner recommended that they accept Glazer's 300p-per-share offer. He confirmed that almost 2m shares owned by board members - 0.72 per cent of the club - will now be sold to Glazer, and said that he and his fellow non-executive directors, Ian Much and Jim O'Neill, are "expected to resign from the board shortly".

Gardner's letter leaves no doubt that he remains unconvinced about Glazer's plans. Fans will be con-cerned that Glazer has failed to provide assurances that he will not load the club with unsustainable debt.

Gardner's letter said: "During its discussions with [Glazer's investment vehicle] Red, the board sought a range of legally-binding protections for the football club, its fans and any minority shareholders, including in relation to future levels of net debt, new player investment and transfers, team selection, Old Trafford [and] ticket prices ... As at the date of this document, no such protections or assurances have been forthcoming."

Shareholders have until 3pm on 13 June to accept Glazer's offer. While the Glazer family believe they can increase profits to meet interest payments estimated at around £50m per year, many fans remain sceptical and will continue to wage an anti-Glazer campaign, primarily by targeting the club's sponsors.

The Shareholders United group is urging fans to terminate contracts with Vodafone, a major sponsor, and switch to two other networks in a special deal that will earn SU's fighting fund £60 per "switcher".

On Tuesday Arun Sarin, the Vodafone chief executive, said that Vodafone would have to consider the protection of its brand when considering the future of its relationship with the club. The four-year contract, which has three years to run, includes get out clauses relating to changes of trading circumstances that allow Vodafone to pull out if it can prove damage is being done to its brand.

The United manager Sir Alex Ferguson requested a personal hearing with the Football Association after denying a charge of improper conduct following comments he made after his side's win against Newcastle United regarding his side's lack of penalties.