Manchester United’s chief executive has told fans he understands the concerns and frustration which led to fresh protests against the Glazer family towards the end of the season.
Supporters again vented their anger against the club’s American owners in matches at Old Trafford as a disappointing campaign fizzled out.
Fans have been protesting against the Glazers since they bought the club in 2005, with supporters still concerned about the debt which was loaded onto the club as a result of the takeover 17 years ago.
More recently, fans were furious about the involvement of the Glazers in plans to launch a European Super League, with a match against Liverpool in May last year postponed after protesters broke into the stadium and invaded the pitch at a fixture which was designated to be played behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There has been a greater level of engagement with supporters over the last few months, and executive co-chairman Joel Glazer has attended meetings of the fans’ advisory board in January and April.
Despite that, the protests have persisted.
Chief executive Richard Arnold was asked about the level of bad feeling from fans towards the owners at a supporters’ forum last month and said: “Everyone at the club, from the owners down, accepts that performances this season have been well below what we expect.
“We are taking decisive action to improve things and there is huge commitment and passion across the club to return to where we think we belong – challenging for, and winning, titles.
“We are very aware of how fans are feeling and understand their concerns and frustration. Football is a game of passion and we fully respect fans’ right to make their feelings known, as long as this remains legal and peaceful at all times.”
Arnold said he hoped the recent recruitment of new manager Erik ten Hag from Ajax would allow supporters to approach next season with “renewed optimism”.
Football director John Murtough, speaking at the same forum, said the early appointment gave everyone at the club “clarity and confidence” heading into the new campaign.
Murtough is overseeing a restructuring of the club’s scouting and recruitment operations as part of an effort to improve on-field performances, which also includes the appointment of the club’s first director of data science, Dominic Jordan, who started work in February.
Despite their difficulties on the pitch, United announced earlier this week that season tickets for next season had sold out in record time, and with non-renewals at their lowest level ever.
The continued importance of the academy was also highlighted at the forum, with United saying they had given more playing time to homegrown players in 2020-21 than any other Premier League club.
Four academy graduates made their debuts in the 2021-22 season, albeit one of them – goalkeeper Tom Heaton – was 35 at the time, having first left United in 2010.
The club announced their financial results for the third quarter of 2022 on Thursday and reported an almost 30 per cent increase in revenue compared to the same period last year.
The Red Devils’ total revenue for the three months ending March 31 of this year was £152.8million, up 29.2 per cent from £118.3m in the corresponding quarter.
The club earned an additional £34.1m in matchday revenue in this period, with the Covid-19 pandemic having limited matchday revenue to just £1.6m in the third quarter of 2021.
Overall there was an operating loss of £21.8m for the third quarter, compared to £21.6m for the prior year, with broadcast revenue down by 12 per cent to £51.5m.
The club’s net debt was £495.7m, up 11.8 per cent on 12 months ago.
The results stated that a ‘semi-annual cash dividend’ equating to nine cents per share would be paid to shareholders on June 24.
Arnold’s statement accompanying the results also touched on major developments in the game, such as the introduction of more stringent regulations on agents being developed by FIFA, new UEFA financial sustainability regulations capping squad costs at 70 per cent of turnover and Champions League expansion from 2024.
“Overall, these changes demonstrate a welcome trend towards stronger governance and greater financial sustainability in European football,” he said.
The new-look Champions League will grant an extra place to each of the two countries with the best performance record in Europe in the previous season. In four of the past five seasons, England would have benefited from one of those places.