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Opinion Piece

United’s pay-per-view won’t pay for players

7F754057C7CE4C09A5353EE7FEB394F3Before the beginning of last season, United launched their membership campaign, whose slogan hinged on the fans’ commitment to the club. “Are you 100% committed?” screamed the fliers United mailed to all One-United members, while the same message could be found on the ticketing section of the club’s website.

United, it seems, take their commitments very seriously. Indeed, when it comes to rip their own fans off, United act more swiftly than Usain Bolt at the starting gun, their aggressive exploitation of every commercial avenue increasingly resembling that of unscrupulous bankers whose only aim is to get richer.

The latest stunt, mind-boggling in its audacity and cheekiness, sees United offering their fans the exclusive chance to watch David Moyes’ men in action against AIK Fotboll in Stockholm next week, and all for a mere £5.95, meaning United will have effectively have their own pay-per-view system online.

“In addition to traditional broadcasting methods, the club is for the first time offering most of its 659 million global followers the opportunity to view live coverage of their favourite team via pay per view on the manutd.com website.

“Whether they are at work, at home or on the move, fans will be able to watch the team take on AIK Fotboll on 6 August in the last game of the pre-season Tour 2013, Presented by Aon, via their TV or desktop computer,” read an official statement on United’s website.

The ridiculousness of it all is so astounding that, if United weren’t the club perpetrating such ordeal, one would be forgiven for dismissing the whole statement as a practical joke. Alas, it’s sheer, unequivocal, reality. Leaving aside for a second the fact that £5.95 to watch a single game is an awful deal from a financial point of view considering that  24 hour access to Sky Sports is available for less than twice the amount – an option scandalously overpriced in itself – why would anybody bother forking out the amount for a meaningless friendly?

Would it be too cynical to suggest that United have picked next week’s game in Stockholm to launch this scheme, purely because Wayne Rooney is set to make his comeback? It probably would but, having ditched naivety a long time ago when it comes to United, I’ll go ahead and put the thought out there anyway.

United-LUHGFurthermore, have the Glazers and Ed Woodward never heard of something called “streaming”? I, for one, refuse to believe that people running the club could be so naive to believe that every single United fan is either a MUTV subscriber or relies solely on websites providing live updates, rather than watch live games online. But, then again, considering the way the club is run I wouldn’t put it beyond them.

Ed Woodward’s claims that United are a “football club” rather than a “business” were about as coherent as the Queen advocating for Britain to abandon monarchy in favour of a republic for, since November 2005, United have parted ways with their football club ethos, to embrace a business philosophy – a very badly run business, it has to be said, but a business nevertheless.

The Glazers are not concerned by the fans, nor they should be. Old or young, locals of foreigners, season ticket holders or members, for the Glazers fans are nothing if a number to add up to the 659m worldwide fan base they incessantly boast about, as it enhances their chances of securing lucrative sponsorship deals, while they’re allowed to burden the club with debts, move fans to other areas of the ground to accommodate Sky’s 3D cameras and distribute tickets to corporates and their cronies.

This week, Real Madrid’s alleged £86m offer for Gareth Bale has been described as madness but, in contrast, nobody seems to care that the combined 11 most expensive transfers in football history work out to an amount inferior to what United has paid in interests alone on the loans the Glazers took out seven years ago.

Cynicism is a terrible habit to have, but among many Reds naivety has become even more dangerous and increasingly frustrating, just like their stubborn refusal to face the enormous consequences that will sooner or later hit the club, unless the cancer is extirpated once and for all.

Sadly, many of those who are now complaining about United’s inactivity in the transfer window considered the green and gold protest sheer lunacy, as on field success papered over the club’s cracks for too long and any criticism towards the Glazers was never taken seriously by those who have never been affected by the increase in ticket prices.

Some of them are coming to terms with reality but, sadly, it’s probably too late. Still, one can always enjoy a fizzy drink courtesy of United’s latest sponsorship deal and pray that as many people as possible decide to take part in United’s latest scam, for if 15 million of fans tune in next week, Moyes might have a couple of pounds to spend

Personally, I wouldn’t count on that.

Dan