It is now no secret about the cripling debt that Manchester United has accumulated since the takeover of the Glazer family. While the debt has been front page headlines across the world, it has barely caused a ripple here in the United States. Even a home owned newspaper makes light of the debt and passes it off as minor hysteria. http://www2.tbo.com/content/2010/jan/21/glazers-run-silent-amid-reports-money-troubles/
The article does make two valid points: 1) Manchester United is indeed more valuable than The Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL 2) There is a good chance that funds that could have been used to improve the Buccaneers from their three win season are being used for Manchester United as evident by their willingness to keep the coach that lead them to their 3-13 season, and not recruit any new players. The Bucks certainly do not have they storied past that Manchester United have. Except for one Super Bowl win, the Bucks have spent their entire existence in the basement of the league. If relegation were part of the US culture, the Bucks would now probably be some pub team that only met once a week to play pick up games against other semi drunk over grown adolescents. To be honest; foreign ownership does not fit well into the English game particularly American ownership. This is not to say that their aren’t successful ownership situations by American owners. Example: Randy Lerner and Aston Villa.
The reason that American Owners do not fit well into the English game is very simple: ownership. American owners traditionally are more after profits than success. In American sports a successful franchise does not have to win; they have to market. Very few owners in American sports have a passion for any sport. They are pleased with the bottom line. Did we fill the seats? Did the concessions do well?
Most owners are billionaire children looking for a life size PlayStation 3. The teams become their toy. They tend to run the club just like they do any other business. If the owner has a lack of integrity in their business life, the same can be said of their clubs. I grew up an avid Dallas Cowboys fan of the NFL. Their ownership was just there to sign the checks. All player decisions were made by general manager Tex Schramm, and head coach Tom Landry. The team was sold to a businessman who had a gift for self promotion. The team that had one head coach during their first 29 years has now had six in their last 21 years. The win at all costs attitude proven by hiring coaches that are yes men; along with players that are felonious mental patients haven taken a team with integrity and changed it to an assembly of thugs. The Dallas Cowboys have left several supporters by the wayside including me. This has become the norm of American owners. The fact that they think nothing of saddling their clubs with massive amounts of debt is not surprising. As long as the lobster is on the table, and the Lear is in the hanger that is all that matters. American owners as a whole view themselves above their clubs fans. They look out on the pitch from their luxury boxes much like Nero looking down on the commoners in the Roman colosseum.
As I mentioned Randy Lerner earlier he is the exception. Someone that has a passion for the game of football. Lerner fell in love with the game during his time at Cambridge preferring to view Arsenal or Aston Villa. Lerner is content to use a good business model in reference to the club; letting the manager run things, not using the business model that Abromovich uses with Chelsea. One of Lerner’s ideas is to foster fan participation, and break the mold of the traditional Villan fan.
I have not seen many supporter owned clubs. In the United States we do have the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Green Bay started started as a semi pro team sponsored by a meat packing company. They are the only non profit sports franchise in the United States. No entity can own over 200,000 shares of stock; stock holders receive no preferential treatment even in the issuance of season tickets, and the stock holders elect a board of directors. Every attempt is made to keep ticket prices low so that all can afford an afternoon of NFL. Through over 90 years the emphasis has remained on what is best for the club and supporters. Could be that non profit ownership is the way to go.
I know that there are groups in England that that have the same idea. One such organization is the Manchester United Supporters Trust http://www.joinmust.org/home.php
MUST has the idea that the fans and owners should share a common bond in doing whats best for the club. I think they are on to something. 50,000 members, and some that are able to muster financial backing. It would be nice to see them throw off the shackles of Glazer ownership.