Will Manchester United Struggle as a Result of Financial Fair Play?

Gregory WakemanContributor IIIApril 3, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 16:  General View during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford on March 16, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

New Financial Fair Play regulations currently hang over the game like an oncoming storm.

Discussions continue to rage across the country over whether or not these rules will benefit or detract from the English game, and of course each viewpoint is perforated by the financial context of the club the debaters support.

Chelsea and Manchester City, who have both greatly benefited from the influx of money they have received from wealthy foreign business owners, are currently sweating over possible repercussions to the way they’re financed.

In December, Manchester United joined ranks with Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in an attempt to make sure the Premier League will adopt rules they'd written up.

Of course, their decision to do so was deemed by many to be a direct result of Manchester City’s Premier League title and Chelsea’s European Cup victories.

Stuart Brennan at the Manchester Evening News believes that they were ”specifically targeting clubs with rich benefactors – just like Chelsea and City, by sheer coincidence!”

The fact that Manchester United are at the forefront of such negotiations has lead people to assume that they, alongside their posse, are looking to protect their own interests. Previously, the Red Devils reported debts of over £715 million, which came as a result of the Glazer’s takeover and threatened to hamper United’s chances of flourishing under this new template.

Many have also pointed out that United have been at the forefront of similar financial frivolities over the last two decades. They argue that the club has inflated the market through their record-breaking transfer fees and high wages, but they forget that United have always acted within their means.

Each of their monetary escapades has come as a result of the revenue and income they have generated, and because of their sustainable business model. In fact, after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million in 2009, many United fans were actually complaining about the lack of investment in the squad.

Like every other club, United fans have had to deal with the constant rise in ticket prices and changes to the game, as matchday endeavours have become more and more expensive, but as the Red Devils have continued to win trophies, the original outcry over the Americans' arrival has since dissipated into a whisper. 

But do supporters of other clubs have a point when they accuse United of hypocrisy?

Well, if they know their history then, yes.

Jonathan Wilson, the renowned and acclaimed football writer, recants a story where in 1902, Manchester United, who at this point in time were known as Newton Heath, organised a fair to help the club raise funds and clear their crippling debt.

This included deploying a Saint Bernard’s dog with a tin around its neck to roam the event in an attempt to gain money, but it then broke free and fell into the arms of a girl, whose father was the wealthy local businessman, John Henry Davies.

He then gave the club £2,000 to keep them afloat and became interested in the side, moving them across the city, changing their name and funding the building of Old Trafford by injecting £40,000 of his own money to the cause.

The Theatre of Dreams’ size was much larger than any other stadium at the time and helped to build United into the behemoth they are today.

£40,000 in that period was 40 times larger than the record transfer at the time. If that were today’s standards, it would be the same as a team receiving £3.2 billion.

Of course, United then used these resources wisely, and their narrative has included the right amount of tragedy (the Munich Air Disaster) and triumph (winning the 1968 European Cup) to attract people’s interest, and wallets, to the club.

People also like to state that United’s recent successes occurred at the luckiest time possible, when the dominance of Sky introduced an influx of overwhelming cash to the game. But they managed to build on their earlier triumphs, have kept their manager and continued to build squads and claim trophies.

Thus, United can generate their own vast sum of money through sales and tours that leave them in a profitable position.

New Financial Fair Play plans mean that United will have to balance their books over a three-year period, starting from 2013-14.

Ferguson has currently amassed a young and talented squad that can do battle with any side in England, whilst Chelsea and Manchester City’s teams look threadbare in comparison. However as United’s revenue is streets ahead of everyone else’s in the league, they will be in a better position to buy players against their domestic rivals, if they were interested in the same individual

Whether this is actually fair remains up for debate. Manchester United’s glorious and hard-earned history has placed them in a luxurious position, and they will feel that it is their duty to protect their standing, rather than allowing oligarchs to trot in and dismount them.

Others will simply see it as a new way to make sure the rich get richer, and they’ll believe that the money should be pooled and dished out across the English game equally—otherwise the chasm between clubs will soon be insurmountable. 

If it’s not already.

In any event, United's past dealings ensure that they are in a prime position to prosper for a long time to come.