By all accounts, British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is at last going to be a shareholder in 13-time Premier League champions Manchester United. Fed up with the current American owners, the Glazer family, Red Devils fans should be pleased to have one of their own to have some say in the way the club is run going forward. In short, some accountability to speak of.
Ever since the retirement of Alex Ferguson in 2013, the Manchester club has only won lesser trophies: the FA Cup in 2016, and the League Cup and Europa League in 2017. In the last six years, to put things into perspective, they have not even won a lesser trophy, let alone the prestigious Premier League or the Champions League.
Things have been on the wane post the Ferguson era but things took a turn for the worse last year when the Glazer family expressed its desire to sell the club. Ratcliffe and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani were the quick movers but both interested parties failed in their ambition, and then in October 2023, the Qatari banker withdrew, leaving Ratcliffe alone in the field.
Reliant British media outlets have been reporting that as part of the deal Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group – a petrochemicals firm – has agreed to pay up to $1.5 billion for a 25% minority stake. This news has been doing the rounds for the last few weeks but now it’s expected to be officially announced during the upcoming international break or even before that. The English football team will be in action twice in four days on November 18 & 21 in the UEFA Euro Qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
Born in Failsworth (Greater Manchester), England, the 71-year-old has been to University of Birmingham and London Business School, and earlier this year he jumped up to the second place in the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated net worth of $36 billion. Ineos has already made massive inroads into the world of sport. They own two reputable football clubs, Ligue 1 club Nice in France and Lausanne in Switzerland. The group also has a minority stake in F1 team Mercedes. This is not the end of the story. They have a big presence in the sailing as well as the cycling world.
Ratcliffe has been a lifelong United fan and this gives Red Devils fans a lot of hope. They believe the Glazer family, because they are Americans, can’t feel as responsible for the club as a local owner — and a fan at that — would feel, who would often be willing to look beyond business interests and ready to fix issues to ensure the team doesn’t suffer on the field of play.
Although Ratcliffe is going to be a minority stakeholder, he is expected to make some serious difference. His background suggests he is not the man who takes things lying down. He likes to keep a check on how things unfold in regard to one thing or another. Ratcliffe has reportedly agreed to shell out an additional $300m to address the Old Trafford issue. The stadium has come under a lot of fire of late for not being as per international standards, particularly in terms of spectator welfare.
Some development is better than no development. After months of uncertainties, United fans will surely be buoyed by the latest development. The team is languishing at the bottom of their Champions League group with three defeats in four games; in the Premier League, they are presently eighth with five defeats in 11 games. Ratcliffe is known to punch above his weight, so rest assured he will do his utmost to fix some of United’s issues. The club appears to be stuck in a rut with infestation at all levels if truth be told. Hopefully, the billionaire lives up to fans’ expectations. Frankly speaking, he has no other option but to succeed. United fans are known to be unforgiving and he wouldn’t want to incur their wrath.