Battle for Manchester United may put football’s marketing appeal under yet more pressure

Football has changed with the Qatar World Cup – not necessarily for the better – and the decision by the US-based Glazer clan to put Manchester United up for sale for a rumoured $5bn may lead to further dramatic changes.

At anything like that kind of price likely bidders will need very deep pockets – the new US owners of Chelsea have set the bar at £2.5bn, only to see the team start to lose – while the newish Saudi owners of Newcastle have watched their team rise into the Premiership’s top four, dizzy heights it hasn’t occupied since it was bankrolled by millionaire Sir John Hall with Kevin Keegan as manager.

The Saudi state, in effect, owns Newcastle, Manchester City is Abu Dhabi’s and PSG in France is Qatar’s. Would the Saudis swap Newcastle for Man United? Stranger things have happened in the world of sportswashing although there would obviously be an outcry.

The Glazers paid £709m for Man U back in 2005 in a heavily leveraged buyout. In effect the club has cost them nothing but keeping it near the top of the heap (preferably in the Champions League) will require further big bucks. Some US sports owners, including Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, are clearly wondering if it’s time to fold before the stakes get even higher. According to the FT, Man U’s lucrative kit deal with Adidas stands to be reduced if the team continues to languish outside the top four.

Football is now a key part of the marketing universe. But it’s been sullied by the World Cup shenanigans and may lose more of its appeal if Man U goes the nation state ownership way of its more successful rivals.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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