Dear Ed, Let’s talk Manchester United’s Commercial Side, shall we?

A look at Manchester United's recent commercial performance and what it means for the club

The first signing Woodward made in January? Neil Ashton, PR waver-of-magic-wand to fix Ed Woodward’s perception. Has the new signing done wonders? Hardly.

Much has been said about #GlazersOut and #WoodwardOut from a fan’s perspective. That is, from the perspective of football. Their tales of relentless dismantling of the football club is well-known. Ask Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans and they will empathize with MUFC fans. The track record of the Glazers, on both sides of the pond, is anything but consistent. Consistent in building wealth at the expense of the teams they own.

Unfortunately, for us fans, the only language the owners understand is that of ‘commercial.’ So much so, that they decided to change the rhetoric of one of the biggest and most successful football clubs in history into two, mutually exclusive, stories – commercial and football.

All #GlazersOut protests passionately highlight the footballing nightmares we’ve grown so accustomed to over the last 6-7 years. But let’s not let accountant par excellence (credit where due), Sir Ed, whitewash the ‘commercial’ side through grandiose statements. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

In the most recent quarterly earnings released on Feb 25, 2020, the “highlights” section had 5 key bullets, 4 of which had nothing to do with football. Surprise!

A closer look shows that during a six month period ending December 31 2018 -2019, broadcasting revenue, total revenue AND profits fell double digits. Yikes! A lot of it is blamed on loss of revenue due to lack of Champions League.

Oh wait, Champions League… that’s the footballing side of the story. How on earth is it having an impact on the commercial side of the story?! I am confused. Especially because:

Something is amiss. We all must be fools, clearly. I am sure we are missing something. Let’s dig in a bit and see what analysts covering the $MANU stock are saying. They are smart people, I am sure they can help. 

Uh oh!

Ok let’s look at another view. I am sure long-term returns of the stock, which is supposed to mimic financial/commercial performance, would be fantastic. Right?

Wrong. The chart above does not say “We are a financial powerhouse.” Instead, it says you’d be a lot richer if you simply put your money in the S&P500 which is the standard measure of the market, than invest in $MANU.

Ok. So what did we learn? First, that our financial position is absolutely affected by our footballing results. Second, in order to improve our financials, we need to reinvest. What it means is if we make $100 in profits, some of it needs to be used to pay down the massive debt. And the rest needs to be put into the club – renovate Old Trafford, invest in staff and players, and oh wait… hire a Director of Football.

But those $100’s are neither getting used to pay down debt, nor to rebuild the club. A lot of it paid to the Board of Directors (majority of whom are Glazer family members) and the owners as dividends.

In other words, they are getting paid for the privilege of owning the club. Sadly.

However, the most important thing that we should remember is this –

There is, and always has been, only one side to the story – our football. This is Manchester United.


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