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Gill: Red Knights are wasting their time

03 Mar 2010 18:23:51

Gill: Red Knights are wasting their time

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has told the Red Knights they are wasting their time trying to buy the Reds. Gill insists the Glazer family do not want to sell, said they are running it in the right way, defended the club's £709m debt and questioned the practicality of the Red Knights' plans for a takeover. He also branded merchant banker Keith Harris, a key member of the group who has called for a fan boycott of United matches, as a publicity seeker and was scathing about his track record in football takeovers. Gill told the Soccerex conference in Manchester: The owners are very long-term owners and have shown that with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which they bought back in 1994-5. They are not sellers. That's not saying people like these Red Knights can't come forward and put a plan to them. But the Glazers have given no indication to me that they want to sell and in that case they cannot buy the asset, it's not for sale. The Glazers have no wish to sell and from our perspective they are running the club in the right way. Gill accepted that some of those involved in Red Knights were credible but was scathing about Harris, who has been involved in a number of takeover bids of top-flight clubs. He said: We are aware of Jim O'Neill (Goldman Sachs' economic adviser) in that he was on our board before the takeover, Mark Rawlinson was our adviser at Freshfields (law firm). Keith Harris will go anywhere there is publicity around, we know that and we accept that, that's his modus operandi but if you looks at his track record in football I don't think it's anything to write home about. These are credible people and have every right to do what they think is in the interest of the club. But that's not going to take them anywhere if the Glazers don't want to sell, and they have no wish to sell and from our perspective they are running the club in the right way. He also defended the Glazers' lack of attendance at United matches and insisted the debts - £507m in bonds with the Glazers' personal PIK debts of £202m - are serviceable. Gill said: They don't come to many games but they are very passionate about the club, they do understand what's required to run a successful sports team, that you have to invest in the product, on the pitch, in the training ground and in the stadium, they watch every match on TV and I think they have been supportive. You have many examples of owners who come in, try to pick the team, be very visible, and they have taken the view they are not there to do that. I don't think their lack of attendance should be interpreted as that they are not passionate about the club. Gill said the clubs' debts were easily covered by the income. He added: We have an element of the debt is very easily serviced by the cashflows of Manchester United, we are in a sport that is getting bigger all the time and as one of the leading clubs we should benefit from that growth. We believe we have a much more appropriate and flexible financial structure in place. In an ideal world people would like to not have a mortgage on their house but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy the benefits of living in that house and can't afford that house. Gill also questioned how a Red Knights' takeover would work at United. He added: The Red Knights proposal, the idea of having 20, 30 or 40 very wealthy people running Manchester United, I don't know how it would work in practice. The better-run clubs are where there is clear single decision-making and it's quick and efficient - Abramovich at Chelsea, Mansour at Manchester City. What do you think? Tell us your views


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