Why the Glazers are really good guys
In today's Financial Times, leading football economist Stefan Szymanski argues that there is something to be said for the Glazers, the controversial owners of Manchester United.
He argues that the club's debt burden is not as bad as it looks. He admits that Glazer financing has added £350m to the costs of the business, but with the owners promising to use half the proceeds of the IPO to retire loan notes, 'debt is no longer really a problem for the club.'
He points out that net borrowings will be £346m against an annual turnover of £330m. That's still more than 100 per cent and the servicing costs are still substantial, but I can see where he is coming from. However, the debt was largely used to acquire the club not to improve it.
More provocatively, he argues that if the money had been spent on the team 'United would have been all but unbeatable and the Premier League championship would have become absurdly predictable. At some level, pereptual dominance leads to a decline of interest in the league, and therefore revenues.'
'In a league you need competitors - a monopoly will not work.' However, dominance would only apply to the domestic competition. Increasingly, it is the Champions League that is the real prize and being excluded at the group stage last season hurt United's pride and its pocket.
I'm not sure that United fans will accept his argument that the Glazers have done the club a favour 'in the most perverse way imaginable.' For their part the Manchester United Supporters Trust are trying to organise a boycott of club sponsors.