When Manchester United were bought by Malcolm Glazer in 2005, the more pessimistic fans predicted that things would quickly get worse for the club. Their working was correct, but answer didn’t arrive quite as quickly as predicted.
Yes, United cut down on their spending, and ticket prices were raised above inflation to increase matchday revenue as much as was possible. Sponsorship for noodles, paint and tractors was established as the most important part of the club. Find a player to advertise something, take the money, and the rest didn’t matter for the Glazers.
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Alex Ferguson, despite the cut in funding, was able to keep the success going on a relatively limited budget. A Champions League, two more finals, and plenty of league titles saw him retire on a high. Since then, things have been different. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have essentially achieved nothing impressive between them, despite almost half a billion quid spent.
Expectations, if not hopes, have been lowered, and perhaps it is time to consider if the Glazers’ other sports club, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are a useful guide for the future.
Malcolm Glazer paid $192m for the Buccaneers in 1995, and in 2003 they won the Super Bowl, the first time they had won it in the club’s history. A sweet moment of success, but they have not made the play-offs since 2008 following the departure of their own chosen one, Jon Gruden.
Success has been hard to come by since then, but ticket prices have continued to increase. As, too, has the value of the club. The Buccaneers are worth close to $2bn according to Forbes magazine.
Manchester City do things differently. They are backed by an entire state which is not aiming to turn a profit but to launder its reputation after regular reports of human rights abuses. They don’t need to worry about Glazernomics, instead they need to worry about their global perception. Fans are to be bought with transfer spending and Amazon documentaries, whereas for United sponsorship is key. If the club continues to make money, and it now has its all-time high stock price, then there is no need to change a thing for Woodward or the Glazers, whatever happens – or doesn’t happen – on the pitch.