Manchester United’s listing raises issues at the heart of football finance. This listing values United almost 50 per cent greater than the £1.5bn it is quoted at elsewhere. But there are three ways it can be justified. First, the club has potential, especially if it can monetise its Asian fan base. Secondly, United has a unique brand position. And thirdly, its competitors can only hope to catch up with its status by spending vast amounts of money. The owners of Chelsea and Manchester City have spent billions to do this. Ultimately, the club will not pay reasonable dividends to shareholders. Only half the sale will go to paying down debt, leaving United with debts of around £350m. Equally, fans are demanding that more is spent on new players. But the club has a remarkable ability to confound sceptics, as its latest sponsorship deal with General Motors shows.
Tom Cannon is professor of strategic development at the University of Liverpool Management School.
Although public ownership has some key advantages, it isn’t the key question. Who does the owning is. We oppose this IPO, but we’re not against the principle – we’d just like to see a fairer offer, with the interests of the club, supporters and shareholders given equal consideration. Barcelona and Real Madrid are fan-owned, but perhaps the German clubs have executed the model most successfully. Their commercial revenues per supporter dwarfs that of privately owned clubs like Manchester United. Supporter-club affinity is the key. Companies need shared agendas with all their stakeholders, and in football it’s even more crucial. Fans deserve a vested interest in the clubs they support passionately and financially. We don’t want to run United – leave that to the professionals. We’d just like owners to have the same interests as fans.
Duncan Drasdo is chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust.