Manchester United chief executive David Gill is to lead an immediate financial review at Old Trafford as the club’s owners, the Glazer family, take steps to assess the ramifications of a potential £20million shortfall in prize-money following the club’s group stage elimination from the Champions League.
Although the Champions League exit will not affect the servicing of the club’s £433million debt, the internal review, which is understood to be a comprehensive assessment of the full impact of being consigned to the Europa League, began with discussions between Gill and senior figures within hours of the 2-1 defeat against FC Basle that led to United’s early exit.
The investigation includes a review of ticketing policy and admission prices, with the United hierarchy aware of the challenge of filling Old Trafford for fixtures against less glamorous opposition in Uefa’s much maligned competition.
Currently, the bank accounts of season-ticket holders are automatically debited for home games in the FA Cup, League Cup and both European competitions but many fans complained to the club yesterday that they did not wish to be included in such a scheme for the Europa League.
In response the club have confirmed that season ticket holders will not have to buy Europa League tickets on a compulsory scheme.
Players’ bonuses are also set to be reduced, with the rewards on offer for success in the Champions League likely to dwarf the incentives for a potential run to the Europa League final in Bucharest next May.
United are also keen to assess the value of television rights in a competition that has often been ridiculed by supporters, with United fans taunting their Liverpool counterparts for Europa League participation by chanting of “Thursday night, Channel Five”.
The Glazers’ plan to float up to 30 per cent of the club on the Singapore Stock Exchange have been placed on hold until market conditions are more suited to their attempts to raise £600million for the clearance of debts and team investment.
Initial hopes to launch the float before the end of the year were suspended in September and, with the financial crisis in the Eurozone, it is understood that the plan remain on hold.
United’s Champions League exit could yet affect the attractiveness of the planned float, however, with potential investors having been given a stark reminder of the risk attached to investing in football clubs — even commercially successful outfits such as United.
Meanwhile, defender Rio Ferdinand insists United will accept the “ridicule” they will face for playing in the Europa League after admitting they deserved their early exit from the Champions League.
“We have to be prepared [for the Europa League], it’s as simple as that.” Ferdinand said. “No matter what gets said, ridiculed or not, we respect the tournament and will go in there to win it.” [Source: Telegraph]