19 February 2023

Man Utd fan group says any new owner must ‘respect rights of all people’

19 February 2023

A leading Manchester United fan group has expressed concern about a potential takeover of the club coming from nations where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

Wealthy Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has already tabled a bid while there is rumoured interest from Saudi Arabia to end the controversial reign of the Glazer family.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has echoed the uneasiness of the LGBTQ+ supporters’ group the Rainbow Devils in a statement to prospective buyers also including Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos.

Ratcliffe has launched a takeover bid but his company’s ownership of Ligue 1 side Nice was another topic of disquiet among MUST, which urged any new owners to engage in discussions with fan groups.

The group said in a statement: “There are questions about sporting integrity given the exceptionally close links between some bidders and the owners of other European clubs including PSG and Nice.

“We also note the importance that any owner respects the rights of all people, particularly women and the LGBTQ+ community. Concerns have been raised by other fans groups which we fully support.

“We urge all bidders to open a dialogue with fans groups alongside the bidding process with the club, in order to discuss their proposals including the above issues.”

A list of requests to any new owner was laid out by MUST in December, with how the bid is financed among the utmost importance given the Glazer family’s contentious leveraged takeover.

The Glazers have been deeply unpopular owners but Ratcliffe, who claims to be a boyhood United fan like his rival Al Thani, has indicated his offer would leave the Old Trafford club debt-free.

MUST added: “There are also questions about whether any bids will also be based on high levels of debt.”

United sit third in the Premier League and will contest the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle next weekend, with Erik ten Hag reviving the club’s fortunes in recent months.

MUST added: “Everyone can see the progress the team is making under Erik Ten Hag. After the frustrations of the last decade, it is clear that enormous strides are being taken. Any prospective bidder needs to explicitly commit to backing Erik and his plans to restore United to glory.”

Ten Hag admitted the possible buyout has captured attention among his players and staff but, speaking ahead of Sunday’s visit of Leicester, the Dutchman urged United to focus on on-field matters.

Ten Hag said on Sky Sports: “We are following the news, we are of course curious what will happen because we are committed, it’s our club but finally it’s nothing to do with us.

“We have to focus on football, that is all we have to do. We have to perform, we have to get the right results and don’t get distracted from things that are going around the club.”

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