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Why you should listen to your fans - A Manchester United case study.

Irrespective of which part of the world you come from, and irrespective of whether you love football or not, each one of you is familiar with the name 'Manchester United'. With 20 English League titles and 3 UEFA Champions League titles, there is no question about Manchester United being one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Apart from a studded trophy cabinet, the club also boasts about being the 4th best club in terms of revenue and a worldwide follower base of 1.1 billion people. This means 1 in every 7 people in the world follows Manchester United. For a club this big with such a strong and huge fan base, you would like to believe the club would be catering to the fan’s expectations, right? Well, the answer is no. The fans of the club are not happy with the ownership and they have been pretty vocal about it for over a decade now. It all started when the Glazers family took over the club in 2005 which in itself was a very controversial take over because of the way the takeover took place and the huge debts it put the club into.

And soon the fans who loved the club started seeing money being taken out from the club as they saw other owners pump money heavily into their clubs, United’s rivals. In 2010, the first protest against the ownership was witnessed as green and golden scarfs were seen around the necks of the supporters as they held placards and banners saying ‘Glazers Out’. Ever since then the Green and Golden Protest has been continuously making appearances at Old Trafford from time to time.

But in the recent few weeks, the whole protest took a whole new turn as Real Madrid president Florentino Perez announced the formation of a breakaway European Super League. A tournament that would potentially kill European football as we know it. The announcement of ESL was greeted with a lot of criticism from the fans worldwide and the tournament didn’t survive even 4 days among the disapproval of the fans. Manchester United, which was one of the 12 founding members of ESL were also heavily criticised by their fans and this gave way to the second wave of the Green and Golden Protests. The constant criticism of the fans and the social media anger and protests first led to the resignation of the Club CEO Ed Woodward. But the fans were not done yet, they wanted the Glazers family out too.

They went ahead and protested at Old Trafford ahead of their premier league clash against their rivals Liverpool causing the game to be suspended. But when it didn’t seem like the Glazers were gonna take them seriously or treat the club in a better way, they started the #NotAPennyMore movement on Twitter. It all started with an open letter written to all the commercial partners of the club. The tweet went viral within an hour and #NotAPennyMore was on number 9 trending on Twitter in a matter of 2 hours. If that wasn’t enough, United supporters across the world started posting negative online reviews for all the sponsors of the club. Sponsors like Teamviewer and AON who had a perfect 5 score on Trustpilot saw their ratings go down to 1 and 1.5 respectively. Other sponsors also saw a similar result on their respective profiles.

The Glazers as usual chose to remain silent as a few media outlets tried to get a reaction from the Glazers regarding the fan protests. A couple of days later the club sent out an official statement from Joel Glazer where he did apologize to the fans and said that the club would make sure they hear what fans have to say in the future but it didn’t seem like the Glazers were looking at selling the club.

As the online protest by the fans still goes on, The Hut Group have already pulled out of the discussion to sponsor Manchester United’s training kit from next season. The deal was supposedly worth £200m over 10 years. Also, another club sponsor, Melitta Coffee are currently in conversation with the club to pull out of their partnerships following the online hate and boycotting of the brand by the fans. As we still wait and see what the future beholds for the green and golden protest and Manchester United, all this concludes to one and only one thing. In sports, the only thing that really matters is the fans. If you do not keep your fans happy, you will always have trouble.


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