Thursday, April 8, 2010

Walk On

. Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fellow IPE blogger Emmanuel and IPE@UNC have a strong rapport (I hope), forged from disagreeing about nearly everything, but he has sunk to a new low in his hatred of everything American: bashing the Glazer family, American owners of venerated English soccer team Manchester United:

Loyal Manchester United fans and Britons in general abhor the Glazers for being ugly Americans and, worse yet, debt-laden ugly Americans [is that redundant?] seemingly hellbent on ruining the finances of such a storied team. There has been a strong grassroots movement via the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) to throw out these Yankee bums.

Now, look. I'm a huge Liverpool supporter in the EPL. Huge. My wife has learned no to speak to me for at least a half hour after Liverpool has lost. My only sports passion stronger than Liverpool is St. Louis Cardinals baseball. (Full disclosure: This blog is divided: Alex is an Arsenal supporter. As far as I know, Dr. Oatley and Sarah have no affiliation.)

Liverpool and Manchester United are heated rivals, so I'm about to do something that I should never do: sing the praises of Manchester United. A Liverpool fan praising the Glazers is like a Red Sox fan saying good things about George Steinbrenner, and I truly hate doing it. But Emmanuel has brought out the nationalism in me -- which is very hard to do, I might add -- and I feel compelled to defend the American Glazers against his attacks. I've previously poked fun at the fact that Manchester United are now sponsored by the U.S. government (via AIG), but here's the thing: since the Glazers took over, debt or no debt, Manchester United has been remarkably successful. Here is Manchester United's list of accomplishments since the Glazer family took charge in 2005:

2005-06: FA Cup winners
2006-07: EPL winners
2007-08: EPL winners, UEFA Champions' League winners
2008-09: FIFA Club World Cup winners, Carling Cup winners, EPL winners, UEFA Champions' League runners-up
2009-10 (in progress): Carling Cup winners, possible EPL winners

Now I'd say that's a helluva record, considering that in the previous 5 years their total silverware was one FA Cup (2004) and one EPL championship (2002-03). Hmm... maybe all that American cash, even if serviced, has done some good for the team. Emmanuel decries the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, but ManU made a healthy sum on the deal: he was bought for £12.24mn, and sold for £80mn. I'd say a 650% profit, plus a closet-full of silverware in the meantime, is a good bit of business, wouldn't you?

Emmanuel wants to say that Barcelona is better-run. That may be. But Barcelona is also the best team in the world, an extreme outlier in every sense. You can't copy their model simply by booting the Americans out. It's just a touch more complicated than that.


Emmanuel said...

KW--I'm an Aston Villa fan. Birmingham, remember? They're also American owned--and rather better run in the sense of being somewhat fiscally sustainable. Villa has improved under the ownership of Randy Lerner. He understands the football tradition. There are good reasons why Lerner is respected by Villa fans but the Glazers are hated by Man U fans:

However, you only have to look at Manchester United to realise that success on the pitch is no guarantee of an owner’s popularity. The Glazers are universally reviled, despite their team winning all the silverware available during their tenure. The difference with Lerner is that not only has he put his hand in his own pocket, unlike his parsimonious predecessor and his fellow transatlantic owners, but he has also demonstrated great respect for Villa’s traditions. On the financial side, he has invested in new training facilities, kept the price of season tickets low and foregone considerable sponsorship money by opting to advertise the name of a local children’s hospice on the team’s shirts. He has also renovated the historic Holte Hotel near the ground, commissioned a statue of Villa’s pioneering chairman William McGregor and even paid for the 1982 European Cup winning team to parade at Villa Park.

Fans care about a lot more things other things than just "winning." Otherwise, I wouldn't be a Villa supporter. Apparently, putting a club's financial health in jeopardy simply isn't acceptable to Man U fans.

On this I am 100% certain: a pro-Glazer movement at Manchester would not gain any mass of adherents. Nobody seems to like Liverpool's American owners, either, but that's another story for another day.

Kindred Winecoff said...

E -

Do you ever sleep? Hot damn, you're everywhere.

I'm glad to hear you're a Villains fan. I have a ton of respect for them, and they have a decent history of breaking Americans into the EPL, esp. Friedel.

And I'm sure you'll notice that I intentionally left out the ownership of Gillette and Hicks. Which hasn't been disastrous. Yet. But that group bought the club for ₤200mn, and it is now valued at ₤1bn by Forbes. Apparently they are demanding close to ₤1.5bn to sell, and they may get it. Again... not a bad bit of business, and the club hasn't gone horribly awry in the past two years, this seasons' disappointments notwithstanding.

Fans do care about things other than winning, but winning is paramount. Which is why I think the green-and-yellow anti-Glazers are so dumb: the club has not suffered from their tenure as owners. Not at all. The club has been remarkably successful since they've taken over. Ticket prices have gone up, yes, but that's because the team has done well and so demand has risen. Nothing wrong with that.

The point is, the Glazers ownership has coincided with maybe the most successful run in ManU's history. Certainly among the most successful. Where's the beef?

Emmanuel said...

US fiscal deficits = unsustainable
Man U's current fiscal state = getting there.

A sale would tend to buttress this argument.

From your side of the pond, think Marlins 1997. Nuff said.

Walk On
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