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Club Takeovers and Self Righteous Fans

It’s been a while since the Glazer takeover – around two years now – and so far things haven’t been that bad for the club. Of course, the 05/06 season was termed by many, a disaster and set the doomsayers on overdrive. I would argue that it was a season of rebuilding and hope, where a team with a midfield of Giggs and O’Shea for good part could finish 2nd ahead of a much fancied Pool. Yes, a lot of credit should then be given to the manager in the 06/07 season for winning the title and staying on course for the treble till the very end. The surprise: we sold more than we bought at the beginning of the 06/07 season. Reason enough for pundits to write us off.

I honestly didn’t expect us to win at the start of the season. But that is not what I am here to talk about.

The whole saga of the Glazer takeover has been among the scariest of things, lot of fans had to endure, in recent times. Plenty of fans opposed it. United Rant did it’s math and painted a scary story, something that still scares me when I read those articles. Many fans did drastic things like start FC United, which, by the way, is doing pretty well. This kind of an opposition was one of its kind, of course, fans of Wimbledon/M.K. Dons would disagree.

The opposition was understandable, because these fans felt they had a say as long as the club were listed in the Stock Exchange. But once it was taken over by a foreigner, they became customers paying the owners to settle the huge debt. Now since I have never lived in Manchester, I never had that feeling of a ‘neighbourhood club being stolen from you’. But I have been a fan of the club for as long as I can remember, enough to spend my weekends watching the games on the telly, enough to spend an even longer time reading Man Utd rags and papers alike and rant on it on a daily basis for you gentle readers to read at your leisure. It’s this feeling you get doing something that you don’t too much care about what you get in return – apart from your comments – but you do it anyway for the joy of talking and writing about United. I am that kind of a fan. How much of a fan you think me to be is then up to how you define that word.

Therefore, my feelings about the Glazer takeover is one of ambivalence. Where, one part of me feels scared of the financial consequences of a few bad seasons and an inability of being able to pay the debt, and another part of me feels optimistic on the back of a successful season, a good management and mostly non-interfering owners, as far as the football is concerned. So while I would not totally justify the takeover and say the Glazers are the smartest businessmen, it would not stop me from continuing to support the club I love.

Which brings me to the main point of the story. We took a load of abuse from our dear rivals ever since the takeovers. Most notably the Red scum from Merseyside with their Uncle Sam and Yankee taunts, and some tiring jibes about selling our souls to the Yanks. Of course, even City fans had their own share of ‘At least our fans are from Manchester’ taunts. (Something that popped up again in one of the Soccerlens article comments). In fact, everyone had something bitter to say about our takeover. I guess what a lot of us could do was to stay quiet, keep our fingers crossed and hope that the results on the pitch keep the rest quiet.

But suddenly, many of the Premiership clubs started getting taken over by some foreign businessman or the other. It then got interesting for a person like me to see the respective fan reactions to the takeovers. Aston Villa were thanking their stars after Randy Lerner came over, Pompey fans rejoiced at Gaydamak’s arrival (even as questions were – albeit wrongly – posed to his mental health). Newcastle fans are desperate for Shepherd to get out, as their ‘saviour’ Mike Ashley comes into the fray. And I can rattle off names of some other clubs too.

What interested me most, was the reaction to Liverpool’s takeover. They are similar to us in the sense that their international base is large (although not as much as ours), they are a high value club and their fans are crazily passionate to say the least. So you would expect them to worry about a takeover bid, right? Wrong. It was shocking to see the hypocrisy as every time an owner was linked to the club, the fans jumped higher and higher with joy. Apart from maybe a few isolated incidents, no one opposed the takeover outrightly.

Now some of you scousers – if there are any of you reading this – will start talking economics and how their takeover was ‘different’. So here is a question to you Liverpudlians. When you people pride yourself as being the best fans to the level that you practically own the Kop, how could you so easily accept takeovers from just about anyone? Yes, you guys were ready to even accept someone as dubious as Thaksin Shinawatra to take over your club. When you taunted us during games with references to Yanks and foreign ownership, it was not the economics of the takeover that you were referring to. It was the ‘selling of our souls’ to an outsider. Speaking in your own language, how is the takeover of your club by – not one, but – two Yanks any different from that of ours as far as selling our souls is concerned?

Personally I never really saw too much into the soul selling thing, but when a certain set of fans think that way of another club they should obviously feel concerned if a similar thing happened to their own club. Which I am appalled to say, hasn’t happened in the case of Pool.

I don’t want to pick too much on City – ‘massive’ club that they are – but when they say ‘At least our fans are from Manchester’ they might want to reconsider, now that their new owner is not from England (leave alone Manchester), and has plans of making Man City a huge brand in Asia. (However laughable that claim may be, we wish them the best.)

It is this kind of hypocrisy among fans that riles me to no end. At least most of us make no pretense about our feelings regarding the Glazer takeover. Even Arsenal opposed Kroenke’s takeover, although it remains to be seen how that story pans out. While fans would have to accept takeovers eventually, the least they could do is not to be self-righteous about them and go around justifying when they taunt other clubs about similar takeovers.