Following the confrontation between David Gill and a fan last week, as well as Gill’s comments about the fans’ “ridiculous” protests, it’s interesting to see what Gill used to think of our fans’ protests and the Glazers’ plan before they became his boss.
MUTV: Can you explain the reason why the Board have terminated discussions with the Glazer family?
David Gill: I think it is down to this simple reason: We have been looking at the proposals the Glazer family made, analysing them with our advisors, and the key aspect of that proposal was the level of debt they were going to use in order to make their offer. We felt as a Board that that level of debt, coupled with their business plan, meant it was an unattractive proposal. We’ve seen many examples of debt in football over the years and the difficulties it causes. We know what that means and we think that is inappropriate for this business. We need to have a sensible structure for the Board to take the club forward.”
MUTV: At this moment in time, do you still expect any kind of bid from the Glazer family?
DG: That is up to them. They will clearly consider their options and review what they should do and no doubt come back to us. But, at the moment, we have terminated those discussions. One of the strengths of Manchester United has been its capital structure built up over many years since 1990 when we first floated on the stock market. We think that structure is appropriate for football business. It’s also important to note that we don’t have an issue with the Glazer family. It is about leverage (using debt to finance an offer).
MUTV: And you are just awaiting the Glazer family’s response?
DG: That is right. We put the announcement out this morning. We have a decent working relationship with them, but the ball is in their court so to speak.
MUTV: What about the support of United’s fans in all this?
DG: We have very vocal fans and one of the key strengths of Manchester United are those fan groups. But they have to understand – and I think most of them do – that the Board has to consider any bona fide proposal for the company. We have done that and the fans have made their views clear. The Board has assessed the proposal with its advisors – having met with the Glazer family and their advisors – to see whether it was in the interests of the company. Some might say we have taken a bit of time about coming up with the response we put out on Monday morning, but we think we have done everything responsibly.
MUTV: Have you been touched by the feeling of support from the fans?
DG: It certainly doesn’t surprise me. That is one of Manchester United’s strengths. I remember clearly back in 1998 when Sky made a bid for us. There was evidence of that in the views of the fans. It is certainly is one of our strengths.
MUTV: What do you see as the next step, because all this cannot have been helpful to the club?
DG: It is disruptive, it would be silly not to recognise that. The statement we put out this morning was quite clear. In due course we would like to work with the Glazer family, Cubic Expression, Shareholders United and our other shareholders to work on a structure that we think will bring the club long-term stability. That must be our aim and is what the Board intends to do.
MUTV: It’s a pertinent point that the football pitch reflects what happens in all of this…
DG: Very much so. Our capital structure, for example, meant that we could move quickly on transfer deadline day to acquire Wayne Rooney. Throughout the 1990s we have used the operating cash flow of the business (i.e. profits each year) to reinvest back in the business, whether that be the physical assets – the training ground or the stadium; or the playing side of it – acquiring players and player contracts. That model is probably envied throughout the football world and is appropriate for us going forward.
In case you thought Gill couldn’t possibly be this hypocritical and that this must be a fabrication, feel free to read through this interview on the club’s official site.