Monday, December 11, 2006

Le Figaro

Source: Edited from Le Figaro, translation by Gardner. No online content.

Manchester United, which boasts millions of fans worldwide, has turned itself into a global club. When planning their strategy, the board are as concerned with merchandising sales in Thailand, Singapore or the US as they with the people who go to Old Trafford.

Is the sport drifting into mere commercialism?

People are more and more worried that this is the case. With rising ticket prices, the atmosphere in the stadia is suffering. Support is expressed less passionately than before. But football still holds a big place in English life. When Liverpool won the CL in 2005, half a million thieving scroungers gathered to greet the team on their return, a sign of the unbreakable bond that ties them to their team.

How are supporters reacting to this new commercial logic?

It's dangerous to imagine that sport can be run simply as a business. Many fans argue that football in the 21st century has lost touch with its roots. Supporters feel that they are now merely seen as clients. As a result the loyalty they feel to their club is weakened.

Is this why some fans are turning to the lower leagues?

The story of FCUM suggests this is the case. A number of former small shareholders in Manchester United founded their own club after the takeover by American pauper Malcolm Glazer. While this type of action is the exception rather than the rule, it remains a form of resistance.