Thursday, 24 March 2011

The world's "richest club" sues one of its fans - but where's the damage?

The Telegraph has today revealed what many involved in opposing the Glazers have known for a while, Manchester United is taking a single fan to court over the leaking of the names of 400 corporate hospitality clients last April. The supporter in question was arrested during a police investigation into the leak, but was released without charge. The club itself has failed to track down the source of the leak (not surprising given that the majority of staff at Old Trafford detest the owners and there must therefore have been a lot of suspects).

The Telegraph report that United's High Court writ says that the leak caused "loss and damage" to its business. This does not tally at all with the club's public statements on executive and hospitality sales.

In its third quarter 2010 presentation to bond holders published on 28th May 2010 (available here), the club said:
"Season ticket & seasonal hospitality sales processes initiated. Trends consistent with prior years."
Almost two months later on the 23rd July last year, the BBC website quoted United's official spokesman as saying that:
"Executive sales are exactly in line with last year"
So publicly and to bond holders, the club has been adamant that all was well with executive sales.

Why then are they suing this supporter?

How much money is the club claiming it has lost through this leak?

Obviously it has not lost enough money to make it worth mentioning to the holders of its bonds... Or was it trying to play down the impact of protests and direct action on its business?

Whatever the answer, this litigation smells horribly of action being taken out of spite and that makes me ashamed of my club. 



Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt that the writ is motivated by monetary compensation. More likely it's a show of force- a really stupid one from a PR perspecitve- designed to deter further disclosure, imtimidate club staff into towing the line, and serve as a warning to folks like yourself that the Glazers are not entirely heedless to their 'domestic' opposition and will resort to drastic measures to silence their critics.

Be wary, Anders. Recheck your Ps and Qs. If in doubt, you should use Gill's submission to the Select Committee as a guide to how facts and figures can be presented without ambiguity or spin!

For legal reasons, I shall remain anonymous.

ja said...

Maclibel part 2?

Anonymous said...

This can be a complete PR disaster for United, and I feel the same as you, Anders - ashamed that this is supposed to be 'my' club. Would they have taken legal action if David Conn printed the list in The Guardian? No, they would not (they can't be THAT stupid, surely).

Considering Gill's recent statements and this writ, it seems United are running tired of the ones who dare to voice a different opinion. Now, we all know (especially Fergie) that free speech does not apply within the Premier League, but as far as I know neither the PL nor United can ignore basic human rights.

Maybe some of the Red Knights can get involved and help the fan out, so he gets proper council.

James Ryddel said...


I think you've raised an excellent point here: given the club have gone on record stating that executive sales have been in line with previous years then surely any decent defence lawyer will use that in court? For this reason, I for one seriously doubt it will ever go to court - because Gill will have to explain his comments and tell the truth about those exec sales. Gill will look like a liar and how damaging would that be?

The Druid said...

If the club were to win this battle, would the bondholders have a case to sue the club for being mislead regarding the health of the club's income projections?

Does not the fact that the club is making these claims at all not give the bondholders such a case?

Andy said...

A Very black day in our clubs glorious history. Have to agree totally with the ashamed bit. But I suppose it no suprise really, when old Uncle Malc took his family to court to challenge their mother's will.

Anonymous said...

i am not completely sure about the legal aspect here so i would ask if did that fan break the law at some point?If he did so despite being a fan, should not reflect what our club is.

in any case anders could you give some clarity on the 101 mil losses being indicated on the news by our parent company?

Thanks and great work as always!

Eugene said...

The Glazers and Gill are undoubtedly being pr)cks but I suspect there is more than simple malice involved here - they know that Mr McKenna is not wealthy and will not want to incur significant legal expenses, hence will be motivated to settle. I would expect that one condition of the settlement is that Mr McKenna disclose which MUFC employee provided him with the list of corporate clients. Very clever, albeit at the same time a complete act of bastardry.

Anonymous said...

Some named on the list saw their property attacked and were otherwise distressed, so reports Associated Press. Presumably such actions were not the outcome Mr McKenna sought when he published the list.

The club is perhaps taking action to show its concern and support for those who were attacked (and by extension all other corporate customers).

The club may (and certainly should) have sought some undertaking from McKenna not to republish the list and failed to get his agreement. Issuing the writ would then be its only recourse other than give in.

Its action does, however, have the makings of a PR disaster and even of McLibel 2 proportions.

Anonymous said...

The Red Knights should fund McKenna's legal costs.

The Glazers/Gill would then be forced to give over loads of confidential information as part of the discovery process.

That'll make them think twice about taking on someone who has far as I can tell has commited no crime i.e. he did not steal the list and he did not damage property. said...

I fully tie in with everything you have printed.