Militant fans in new threat to Glazer

A militant group of Manchester United fans this week threatened a renewed and potentially more violent phase of its campaign to keep Malcolm Glazer from taking control of the club.

The group, which calls itself the Manchester Education Committee (MEC) and has been responsible for ”direct action” against those it suspects of involvement in any takeover, warned that it would target Glazer and his family, the financial institutions that are backing the proposals and the current board of directors should they commit an ”act of treachery” by selling the club.

The threats were made in a statement to The Guardian as it became clear that the United board is virtually certain to allow Glazer, the holder of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL franchise, to conduct due diligence, the process of checking a company’s financial books.

The American’s advisers could even have access to United’s legal documents and sponsorship contracts by the end of this week, having offered to sign confidentiality agreements.

Shareholders United, the supporters’ group with 20 000 members which collectively owns 1,5% to 2% of the shares, this week launched a desperate appeal to the directors. It argued that the changes to Glazer’s £800-million proposal were ”nothing but smoke and mirrors” and would still leave United burdened with debt.

”Nothing in this revised proposal gives the stakeholders any comfort that their interests will be regarded and cherished — the opposite in fact,” said Shareholders United chairperson Nick Towle in a letter to the club’s chief executive, David Gill. ”Our club and our stakeholders’ interests are at risk as never before.”

Yet the dissent of such established supporters’ groups was accompanied by more overt threats from their more militant counterparts.

The MEC has been condemned in the past by many United supporters and by the club, but was undeterred. ”It is our club and we will be ruthless in protecting it. Our previous symbolic actions have been disregarded; we have no choice now but to act with our full capabilities,” its statement said.

United will have to take the threats seriously given that the club’s solicitor, the former main board director Maurice Watkins, was targeted in October after he indirectly sold one million shares to Glazer. Two cars belonging to him were daubed with red paint outside his home.

The same group was responsible for a pitch invasion that disrupted a United reserve-team match, and it has compiled an extensive database of home and work addresses of people involved in the takeover attempt.

One of Glazer’s former PR executives is said to have received a home visit. The group also claims to have a severed horse’s head, which it is waiting to send to anyone who provokes its ire.

The statement continued: ”Malcolm Glazer’s continued pursuit of Manchester United indicates that he has paid no attention to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of ordinary supporters of the club, or to the warnings he has been given. It is therefore clear that the consequences of any takeover bid need fully spelling out for all parties concerned.”

The group warned that directors would be placed ”in an extremely vulnerable position for years to come” if they failed to maintain their opposition to Glazer.

”Any board member who may be coveting a place in the management structure of a Glazer regime is advised immediately to abandon such hopes. Collaborators will be treated as such. The movements and whereabouts of all board members will continue to be of the utmost interest to us.”

The organisation went on to state that it would ”ensure a warm welcome” if any of the Glazer family visited England, ”no matter how large the phalanx of bodyguards”. — Â

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