MANCHESTER – Manchester United fans have celebrated the news that the Glazer family are open to selling the club after an acrimonious relationship with supporters during their 17 years in charge.
But United are not the only iconic English club on the market with Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, also seeking to sell a share or all of their stake in the six-time European champions.
AFP Sport looks at the reasons why both the two most successful clubs in English football history are up for sale:
Super League stalemateThe Glazers and FSG were behind the botched attempt at a breakaway European Super League in 2021 that rapidly collapsed amid a furious backlash from fans, governing bodies and politicians.
A cabal of 12 leading European clubs sought to create a closed league format common in US sport without promotion or relegation or the need to qualify every year as they do currently for the Champions League.
The idea was to maximise revenue from more guaranteed games against top level opposition, while also controlling costs in an attempt to make clubs far more profitable.
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are going through the courts in an attempt to get the Super League off the ground.
But with opposition to the project still fierce in England, it would be hugely unpopular move for any Premier League owner to pursue.
Newcastle threatWithout a Super League, Champions League revenue is even more vital to United and Liverpool.
However, their place at the top table of European football is set to come under increasing threat by the rise of Newcastle under the ownership of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
As the Premier League takes a mid-season break for the World Cup, neither United nor Liverpool are in the top four.
Just over 12 months into a new era, Newcastle are up in third.
Both clubs have already been stung by state wealth as Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City have superseded their traditional rivals to become the dominant force in English football over the past decade.
For the fourth time in 10 years, United failed to qualify for the Champions League this season.
Liverpool are in the competition for a sixth consecutive season thanks to coach Jurgen Klopp’s transformation of the Reds’ fortunes.
But prior to that run, Liverpool reached the Champions League just once in seven years.
Chelsea sale priceDespite a fire sale caused by sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich for his links to the Kremlin, Chelsea fetched a record price for a football club of £2.5 billion ($3 billion) in May thanks to a bidding war.
Tellingly, United’s owners have appointed Raine, the same bank used in the Chelsea sale to lead the process for fresh investment.
With a far more glorious history than the Blues and a larger global fanbase, both United and Liverpool should fetch a higher price despite being based in England’s north-west compared to London.
Analysts believe United could fetch as much as £5 billion for a club the Glazers bought for £790 million in a leveraged takeover.
FSG are in line for a 10-fold increase on the £300 million they spent to acquire Liverpool in 2010.
Changing economic climateAs interest rates rise to try and quell inflation around the globe, the burden of carrying debt has become a lot more onerous.
United’s net borrowings swelled to £515 million in the 2021/22 season.
The Glazers also recognised the need for major capital expenditure on upgrading Old Trafford in their statement on seeking investment.
Liverpool are going through a second expansion of the club’s stadium during FSG’s tenure with an £80 million redevelopment of the Anfield Road Stand.
On the field, Liverpool fans are also crying out for investment in new players after a dramatic drop off in performances this season by an ageing squad.
With borrowing far more expensive than it has been for most of their time in English football, both the Glazers and FSG appear to have decided now is the time to cash out. – AFP