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Chevrolet to end deal with Man Utd - bad news for Woodward, good news for fans?

Chevrolet to end deal with Man Utd - bad news for Woodward, good news for fans?

The American firm's £400m seven-year deal will not be renewed - will Man Utd take a hit?

ONE wonders how often the Glazers truly look at the Premier League table. For football fans, success and failure is defined by their position in the accepted ranking system that sorts and orders the chaos of the sport for common consumption. It is the purest distillation of footballing results. Not for Manchester United’s owners, though.

The results they care about can be found on a spreadsheet, not in a league table. The Old Trafford club is among the most profitable in world football, just last month announcing record annual revenues of £627 million for the 2018/19 financial year. Success on the pitch has evaded Man Utd in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age, but off the pitch the picture has remained exceptionally healthy.

According to recent reports, though, that picture might be about to change. Chevrolet struck a staggering £400 million seven-year deal to be United’s primary sponsor back in 2012, setting a new precedent for what a football could expect to demand for slapping a logo on their shirts. The American car manufacturer aren’t expected to renew their agreement.

Ferguson was still at the club when Chevrolet first put pen to paper. Man Utd were still the epitome of sporting success. Now, however, they are the image of mediocrity, even incompetence. United have failed to win a single league title in the six seasons they have played with Chevrolet’s logo on their chest and the American car manufacturer is believed to be unhappy about this.

United are now reportedly actively looking for a brand to fill the £65 million-a-season hole Chevrolet’s withdrawal will open up. This development, however, is good news for the future of the Old Trafford club. That the Glazers’ brow might be furrowed by a slump in Man Utd’s commercial prosperity should be welcomed by fans as counterintuitive as that may seem.

This is the only thing that will prompt change. This is the only thing that will force the Glazers, and Ed Woodward by extension, to even consider altering their ways. Manchester United’s continued growth as a commercial entity over the past few years has almost defied logic. Results and performances on the pitch have had seemingly no effect on their income. 

A tipping point may now have been reached. If reports of Chevrolet’s disgruntlement is to be taken at face value, brands may no longer see the value in attaching themselves to Manchester United. If the American car manufacturers feel this way there’s a good chance others harbour a similar sentiment. The house of cards might be about to fall.

Maybe then the Glazers, whose negligence as owners and leaders sunk United to this point in the first place, will restructure the footballing side of the club. Maybe then they’ll appoint a Director of Football. Or devise a coherent transfer strategy. Or appoint a world class manager. The establishment of a link between on and off the pitch results would change the dynamic.

This weekend will see United face their closest and fiercest rivals Liverpool and in the Anfield club they will find the precedent to follow. The Reds are reigning European champions and will arrive at Old Trafford on Sunday eight points clear at the top of the Premier League. They are also reported to be on the brink of signing a new record-breaking kit deal with Nike. There is a direct correlation between their resurgence on the pitch and renewed profitability off it.

In his arrogance, Woodward has long insisted Man Utd’s commercial bubble would never pop. That as a brand they would continue to prosper no matter how bleak the outlook for the team on the pitch. Such steadfast belief was founded on nothing more than ignorance and is now being exposed. The Glazers see United as a business not a football club, but the success of the former depends on that of the latter. If they don’t see that now, they never will.




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Graham Ruthven
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