Man Utd’s David Gill goes on PR offensive

By Paul Hurst

David Gill

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has come out on a PR offensive in the wake of the recent protests against the Glazer ownership of the club.

Gill — who famously said to a United fans group that if he could, he’d be “behind the barricades” with them, in the build-up to the takeover in 2005 — has become an increasingly unpopular figure amongst United fans. His latest comments to the BBC today are not likely to increase his popularity.

In the interview, he rather curtly dismissed the concerns of United supporters about the massive debt the club is saddled with, and described planned protests against the Glazers as ‘ridiculous’.

He was keen to stress that there is nothing to worry about with the club’s finances, and that they have no ‘financial reasons’ to sell players such as Wayne Rooney.

Gill’s comments will be well received by his employers, but are already coming under significant scrutiny from fans and financial experts alike. In particular, he described the club’s debt as a ‘misconception’, given the club currently has £140m in cash in the accounts — £80m of that from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo. When asked if all of the money from the Ronaldo sale was available for Sir Alex Ferguson to spend, his response was ‘without a doubt’.

However, when the facts are examined, Gill’s comments seem disingenuous, to say the least. It is already known from the bond prospectus that £30m will be taken from the cash reserves to pay for the fees related to the bond issue, and to settle some of the loss from the Glazer interest rate hedge gone wrong.

Additionally, the bond issue also provides the opportunity for the Glazer family to immediately move £70m cash from the club to Red Football Joint Venture, the club’s holding company. It is widely believed that this money will be used to pay down some of the £200m+ PIK debt secured against the Glazers shares in the club. Far from making a denial, Gill did not even make any comment about this arrangement

It does therefore beg the question of how Gill’s comments can be factual. It would seem obvious to even a cursory examination that much of the Ronaldo money — and in excess of £100m in total — is going to be used for debt obligations and related costs.

The sum received for Ronaldo was an exceptional amount, and the concern for United fans is where exactly the money is going to come from in the future, after the Ronaldo windfall has been squandered on paying banks and hedge funds. They certainly don’t deserve to have their concerns dismissed as ‘ridiculous’.

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