United fans urged to boycott club

‘Red Knights’ consortium says non-renewal of season tickets will help oust Glazers
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The Independent Football

The financier seeking to bring together a collection of "Red Knights" to buy out the Glazer family at Manchester United is seeking to unite fans behind the idea of refusing to renew their season tickets.

A number of the "Red Knights" drawn together by Keith Harris have met lawyers at the Freshfields firm to discuss an approach to the Glazers, but the Americans, who last night reiterated their determination not to sell, will only be persuaded to do so when they are hit in the pocket.

United season tickets are due for renewal from the end of this month but some fans are more convinced than others that non-renewal will actually succeed in forcing the Glazers out and that it is a risk worth taking.

Among the strong fans' groups, the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association is understood to be most convinced that non-renewal is the way ahead. Discussions have also been held between Harris and the Manchester United Supporters' Trust (Must) – architects of the powerful green and gold campaign – in the hope that a mass boycott of season-ticket renewals will force the Glazers to the table.

As The Independent reported on Saturday, Must is beginning work in earnest with US-based online campaign consultancy firm Blue State Digital (BDS), which ran the technology behind the my.barackobama.com, the campaign widely credited with helping bring the US president to power. But while this can potentially bring in money as well as nurturing activism, green and gold alone cannot be the instrument of the Glazers' removal. The Americans will only be forced out when their current revenue streams at United are cut off.

Sir Alex Ferguson recently responded civilly to a letter to him from Must and has said supporters have the right to protest – even though he challenges their assertion that the Glazers are depriving him of transfer-market resources. Patrice Evra, United's captain in the Carling Cup final, yesterday became the first player to acknowledge the green and gold campaign.

"They are the original colours of [United] and the fans wear them because they love this club," Evra said. "They [the fans] have their reasons for doing it and we don't think that they're crazy. They'd like things to change."

The United captain, Gary Neville, has indicated that his career with the club could be over at the end of the season, almost 18 years after making his debut. His contract expires in June, he is yet to be offered a new deal and of the prospect of extending his career he said: "I don't know... I'm not even thinking about it. I've got to decide what I want to do and speak to the manager."

Knights to the rescue? Those backing the bid

*Keith Harris has overseen the sale of many top clubs. He is chairman of the stockbroker Seymour Pierce.

*Jim O'Neill is chief economist at the investment bank Goldman Sachs and a life-long United fan.

*Mark Rawlinson, a partner at law firm Freshfields who advised United on the takeover by the Glazers.

*Paul Marshall is co-founder of hedge fund Marshall Wace and a United fan.

*Richard Hytner is an executive at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi.

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