July 31, 2012 / 9:24 AM / in 5 years

Manchester United fans group slams Glazers' IPO plan

LONDON (Reuters) - A group of Manchester United fans accused the American Glazer family of milking the English Premier League soccer team for cash after IPO terms revealed they planned to take half of the proceeds of its flotation.

Fans from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) questioned why all of the money being raised was not being used to reduce a debt pile that they say is holding back the team’s performances on the field.

The club and the Glazers each will be selling half the IPO shares in an offering that will raise as much as $333 million. The club’s proceeds from the IPO will be used to reduce its debt of 423 million pounds as of March 31 to 345.4 million pounds ($664 million to $543 million).

“Supporters are going to be very angry about this,” said Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of MUST, a group lobbying for fans to play a greater role in the ownership of the club.

“The Glazers have already cost United more than 550 million pounds in debt related fees and now another slap in the face as they help themselves to half of the proposed IPO proceeds,” he added.

“Clearly this has nothing to do with benefits for Manchester United and is all about giving the Glazers quick access to desperately needed cash at the expense of our football club.”

MUST has fought a long campaign against the Glazers, who bought the club for 790 million pounds in a highly-leveraged deal in 2005 and also own NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Discontent has grown after United, English champions a record 19 times, failed to win a trophy last season - their first barren year since 2005.

They missed out on the title to local rivals Manchester City, whose owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, one of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, has ploughed an estimated 800 million pounds into the club.

A recent survey commissioned by United said it had 659 million followers globally, almost one in 10 of the population, but it still remains at the mercy of performances on the pitch, with revenues hit last season by an early exit from the lucrative European Champions’ League.

However, the club’s global appeal was underlined when it signed a new seven-year shirt sponsorship deal with General Motors’ Chevrolet. The deal begins in 2014 and one source said it could be worth up to $600 million.

Editing by Mark Potter, For all the latest Olympic news go to here

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