The Red Devils may be one of the richest clubs in the world, but events in the mid-2000s saw a seismic financial shift
Manchester United are one of the most iconic football clubs in the world and decades of consistent success under Alex Ferguson helped increase the value of the institution.
While they have endured a period of instability following Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the Red Devils remain an attractive partner from a commercial perspective and the money continues to roll in.
Concerns regarding debt, however, have been aired frequently over the course of the past decade, with some supporters voicing opposition to the club’s current leadership.
Are Manchester United in debt?
Manchester United are in debt and the club’s net debt as of March 31, 2019 was £301.7 million ($373m). That figure has increased by around £400,000 ($490k) on the previous year.
The club had been debt-free until 2005, but debt has risen and fallen since then, reaching a peak of nearly £778 million in 2010.
Why are Manchester United in debt?
Manchester United’s colossal debt is the result of the takeover of the club by the Glazer family in 2005.
The Glazer takeover of the Premier League giants was controversial because it loaded £525 million of debt onto the club – through loans secured against its assets – in a move known as a ‘leveraged buyout’.
Prior to the purchase, Manchester United had been debt free.
A refinancing of the debt occurred in 2010 when it had risen to over three-quarters-of-a billion pounds.
Man Utd fan protests against the Glazers
The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazers and the subsequent debt has been a sore point for many Red Devils fans.
Before the 2005 sale of the club, fans were vocal in their opposition and protests became much more pronounced following the completion of the takeover.
Fan groups united under the banner ‘Love United, Hate Glazer’ (LUHG) and began wearing green and gold – the traditional colours of the club before the adoption of red – in a striking visual protest.
Boycotts took place, with some fans opting against renewing their season tickets, while others went even further by establishing their own breakaway club, FC United of Manchester.
Anti-Glazer demonstrations were at their most pronounced in 2010, when the club’s level of debt was at its worst.
Indeed, Red Devils hero David Beckham was famously seen wearing a green and gold scarf after a 2010 meeting between AC Milan and Manchester United.
Protests have died down somewhat in recent years, but they still take place.
How much are Manchester United worth?
According to Forbes, Manchester United were worth $3.8 billion (£3bn) in May 2019, which made them the third most valuable football club in the world, behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The $3.8bn valuation was down eight per cent on their worth for the previous year as they topped the 2018 list with a value of $4.1bn.
Commercial deals ($1.4bn) and broadcasting revenue ($1.3bn) contribute the bulk of the wealth, accounting for a combined 71.1 per cent of the club’s value in 2019 figures.
Beyond that, matchday income from gate receipts and corporate hospitality generates $655m (£530m), while the remaining $444m comes from the power of their brand.
Despite their 2019 drop, the Red Devils have consistently placed in the top three of Forbes’ list alongside Real and Barca since 2007, topping it on eight occasions.
They were ranked number one from 2007 to 2012 and returned to the summit in 2017 and 2018.
Their fluctuation in recent years is largely down to a relative lack of on-field success, with Champions League football no longer a given as it was during Alex Ferguson’s tenure.
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