Manchester United: Joel Glazer’s open letter to angry fans admits ‘need for change’ at club

Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer has written an open letter to fans admitting there is a "need for change" at the club.

Having controversially taken over at Old Trafford in 2005, long-standing fan anger towards the Glazer family reached a new peak in the wake of April’s botched attempts to join a breakaway European Super League.

Last Sunday’s Premier League match against Liverpool was called off due to protests against the owners, which came two days after supporters expressed disgust, embarrassment and anger during an emergency fan forum.

But on Friday Joel Glazer acknowledged things must change – and he even promised to attend the next fan forum to discuss matters.

He said there must be better communication and also promised investment in the squad and in Old Trafford as well as opening talks about widening share ownership.

His pledges came after supporters had sent a five-point plan to him saying "change is needed and the club must act now".

In response, the executive co-chairman and director said: "I was personally humbled by parts of your letter, as you explained so clearly why our initial support for the European Super League left you feeling angry and let down.

"I would like to reiterate my sincere apology for the mistakes that were made.

"In particular, I want to acknowledge the need for change, with deeper consultation with you as our main fan representative body across a range of important issues, including the competitions we play in.

"We also recognise the importance of fan and football interests being embedded in key decision-making processes at every level of the club, and we are open to constructive discussions on how to reinforce that principle."

While Avram Glazer refused to comment when asked if he wanted to apologise in the USA this week, his brother Joel attempted to placate fans amid talk of another demonstration before Thursday’s rearranged match against Liverpool.

"I want to reassure you that my family and I care deeply about Manchester United and feel a profound sense of responsibility to protect and enhance its strength for the long-term, while respecting its values and traditions," he said the day after the club reaching the Europa League final.

"Our top priority is, and will always be, competing for the most important trophies, playing entertaining football with a team comprised of top-quality recruits and some of the world’s best homegrown talent.

"Under manager Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer), we feel we are absolutely on the right track.

"Success on the field must be underpinned by solid foundations off it. We have supported sustained investment in the team over many years, and that will continue this summer.

"We recognise that we will need to significantly increase investment in Old Trafford and our training complex to ensure that the club’s facilities remain among the best in Europe.

"As part of this, we will consult with fans on investments related to the stadium and the matchday experience."

He also pledged to attend the next fan forum to discuss matters, with talks about a fan share ownership mechanism to continue with the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST).

He said one of the "clearest lessons" to come out of recent fan anger was for them to "become better listeners".

And he also pledged to "accelerate" discussions on fan share ownership.

"We want to work together to come up with an ambitious package of measures which will transform our relationship with fans and strengthen the club for the long-term.

"In this spirit, we will reach out to members of the forum to schedule a meeting in which I shall participate as soon as possible after the final game of the season."

MUST tentatively welcomed the seeming change of tack by the Glazers but said actions are needed, not words.

"The response could in theory – and we emphasise in theory only – be a change in direction and approach by the owners versus their silence and disregard for communication over the last 16 years," a statement read.

"We will, however, determine our position based on the resulting actions rather than these words alone.

"The onus remains on the club to put right the problems of the past, not just the European Super League but the overall lack of communication and consultation by the owners.

"We want a new Manchester United, with a meaningful shareholding for supporters and a meaningful say in key areas.

"This is our objective, and there will be no let-up until we get there."

The family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have generally declined to engage with fans since gaining control in a leveraged takeover that loaded debt onto the club.

Being owned by the Glazer family has so far cost Manchester United £1.5bn.

They borrowed £520m to buy the club in 2005 and it has been paying the interest and other charges ever since.

Latest accounts show gross debt is now £536m.

United were debt free before the Glazers took over.

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