Football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes the Glazer family’s decision to consider selling Manchester United could be a sign that some of the First Wealthy League owners feel they have extracted as much value as possible from the competition.
Todd Boehly’s £2.5bn takeover of Chelsea has turned heads and the Premier League’s two biggest brands – United and liverpool – are now on sale after Anfield owners Fenway Sports Group made a similar announcement earlier this month.
Maguire, author of The Price of Football, told the PA news agency that a number of factors were at work, but the failure of bigger clubs’ attempts to exert more control over the game and growing competition for Champions League places have now convinced some owners. might be time to get out.
“Could it be said that we are at the top of the Premier League?” said Maguire. “It’s in the sense that what the owners hoped to extract from the European Super League and also taking control of the national game under Project an overview not here anymore.
“As a result, they see no opportunity to further monetize their brand. It’s an awful term, but the Glazers or (Liverpool’s main owner) John Henry don’t care if their club wins, loses or draws, they just focus on the bottom line.
“I think (Chelsea) was the catalyst and there are others premier league clubs that are quietly for sale. Everyone has been very interested in what has happened over the past 12 months.
“Newcastle has caused further ripple because six against four is not right in terms of Champions League places and seven against four makes it even more difficult.
“Is there a reason for the owners of United and Liverpool to think ‘if these are the circumstances in which we operate, it’s time to come out and hand these problems to someone else? “”
Maguire said that, measured against Chelsea’s revenue and profitability, a fair price for United would be up to £4.5billion, but an even higher price was to be expected.
“It’s a bit like buying the Mona Lisa,” he says. “There’s only one in the world and people are willing to pay extra.”
But Maguire has warned any incoming owner there will be no easy way out at a club which has not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 and has fallen behind in terms of investment outside the field.
“Anyone arriving shouldn’t be looking for a quick turnaround,” he said. “It’s a long-term project.
“In terms of investing money in the stadium, it’s going to be an architectural challenge. We’re probably talking about £200-300m, which in the context of a £4-5bn acquisition pounds, maybe not that much.
Maguire also added a note of caution for United fans who have long campaigned to get the Glazers out.
“Change is not the same as improvement, that’s a common misconception,” he said. “If I was from Urmston or somewhere near (Old Trafford) I think the choice would be Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
“He’s a Manchester boy, he understands Manchester culture. It would be a very romantic return, but if he’s willing to pay the prices quoted, I’m not so sure. He’s a businessman very clever.
“An alternative would be the Middle East. United fans have been more than happy to throw bricks at Newcastle and Manchester City when it comes to Middle Eastern owners, so would their reaction change if someone did indeed come with a sugar daddy approach?
“The third alternative would be another group of American owners, but they would be looking for a financial return rather than an emotional return, which might mean you don’t see the huge sums that the fans want to see spent.”