Fans First

Just a little over two weeks ago, the world of football was rocked by the news of a breakaway European Super League which was led by a group of 12 football clubs and headed by Real Madrid president Fiorentina Perez.

The founding clubs, who have so far been labelled by Europe’s football governing body UEFA as the “dirty dozen” comprised England’s big-six clubs—Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City—and the major clubs from Spain and Italy; Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.

While the rest of the world reacted in shock, in England it was a more violent reaction.

The Premier League welcomed the news with much more anger, outright disgust and outrage. Several pundits, politicians, fans and anyone who loved the game voiced their opinion and displeasure about the development.

Even players and coaches who were under the employment of these clubs voiced their displeasure at the news. Notable voices like Liverpool’s coach Jurgen Klopp and his Man City counterpart, Pep Guardiola, stood their ground in disagreement, despite their club’s involvement.

In 48 hours, following player and fans protests and much pressure from all sides, the ESL idea was dead as all the Premier League clubs involved pulled out from the deal. Chelsea and Man City were the first to do so, followed by the others.

With the new league called off, club chiefs and CEOs began the process of regaining trust and acceptance among the fan-base who now saw them as thieves and money grabbers who only saw their clubs as money-making ventures.

Man City, Tottenham and Chelsea were quick to issue statements, with the latter reaching their fans directly via club legend Petr Čech, while Liverpool principal owner John Henry sent a video-recorded apology. The fans were appeased and their egos massaged.

But over at Old Trafford, the story was different—there was an eruption of chaos.

The aftermath of the club’s departure from the ESL saw long-time Chief Executive Ed Woodward, who had since been pressured to resign by fans, quit his role in the club board.

The fans sensing an opportunity to consolidate for further changes jumped on the wave to make their demands of the owners made. Led by Manchester United Supporters Trust, the fan base asked for the head of their much-hated American owners, the Glazer Family.

The Americans have been accused of stealing from the club and driving them “into debt and decline.” The message was simple; #GlazersOut.

Unlike Liverpool’s John Henry, the Glazers, particularly Joel Glazer, remained firm and unapologetic—at least until last Sunday when a group of Manchester United supporters stormed into Old Trafford in violent protest, leading to the cancellation of the club’s game with Liverpool.

The supporters cited a lack of collaboration and mistrust as the reason for the protest while claiming that the situation had reached a “boiling point”, leading to their protest.

“What happened was the culmination of 16 years in which your family’s ownership of the club has driven us into debt and decline, and we have felt ever more sidelined and ignored,” they wrote in an open letter

“After 16 years not one member of the Glazer family has ever had so much as a conversation with us, the club’s Supporters’ Trust.”

The fans went on further in the open letter to outline a way forward with a four-point plan.

So far, the tension has been reduced, with the Premier League and the government stepping in to ensure that no further protest materializes.

But the fans have been heard, and the Glazers have now seen first-hand the consequences of pushing fans to the limits.

They have since released a statement acknowledging the supporter’s request while condemning their violent approach to the protest, but it remains to be seen what actions will be taken.

With the club appearing to have won the battle at this level, fingers remain crossed on who will win the ultimate war.

But be it as it may, expect the fans to have a big say in what goes on around Old Trafford going forward. Read all about it in the next edition of Soccer 360 Magazine. Score your subscription today.

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