Manchester United legend Gary Neville has explained his objections to the Glazer family’s ownership of the club in a new book that will be published this month.
In an extract from the book, “The People’s Game: A View From A Front Seat in Football by Gary Neville“, published in The Mail on Sunday, Neville says he didn’t understand the significance of what the family was doing in buying United when he was a player but that he had a personal clash with them in 2011 that opened his eyes to their “petty and small-minded” behaviour.
“I was working to open our hotel, Hotel Football, which is opposite Old Trafford and was a project backed by myself, my brother Phil, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt.
“We had planning permission to build offices, but it didn’t make sense so we decided to make it a hospitality venue, namely a hotel, and applied to have the planning permission changed.
“When I turned up [for the planning meeting] Manchester United were at the meeting. Not just an official, but Michael Bolingbroke, the chief operating officer … who had been sent along to object.
“At the time Ryan and Paul were still playing for the club and Nicky was on the coaching staff. I thought that was incredible.
“Asking someone of Michael’s status to attend a planning meeting where they were always going to fail with their objection was cowardly and unimpressive.
“The decision to object must have been sanctioned from the top and, at United, that is Joel Glazer. Their argument was that our hotel didn’t fit their vision for the area. Which, judging by what they have achieved in the 10 years since, seems to have been to maintain the environment as an industrial wasteland.”
But Neville’s objections go way beyond those personal gripes. He is careful to say that the family has done nothing against the law and that debt, per se, is not always a problem. The issues are the Glazers’ reluctance to invest in the infrastructure of the club and their determination to drain out millions to pay themselves dividends as Old Trafford decays.
“I wish they weren’t the owners,” Neville says.
“In the last few years I’ve now eventually become convinced they’re not fit to own the club.
“My biggest problem is lack of attention to the club and United’s decline under the Glazers’ ownership.
“The final straw was when they seemed willing to destroy English football with the Super League. That’s when I knew I couldn’t hold back any longer. Their greed and poverty of vision was just scandalous to me.
“The idea that you could just cut off the rest of English football and create something that, while it may suit America, is an act of cultural vandalism appeared an extraordinary testament to how little they have learned about England in the 19 years they have been invested in the club.
“Manchester United has been reduced to being a cash machine for the Glazer family.
“You can’t take millions a year out when the ground is rusting, the training ground needs refurbishing and the team is in disarray.”
The positive note that comes out of Neville’s essentially gloomy message is that he thinks, with the milk almost set to run dry on football’s biggest cash cow, that there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
Amid talks of a takeover by the likes of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Michael Knighton, Neville has a hunch that the American tycoons will either sell a large portion or all of their share of the club “in the next year or two”.
The Class of 92 star has his “fingers crossed” that the Glazers’ stranglehold over the club is finally coming to an end.
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