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Where did the protest go? Manchester United and The Green and Gold

Thursday 21st July 2011
There's an interesting concept that suggests, with the advent of Facebook, that protesting has been watered down into nothing more than a branded activity for those (“the young”) that should actually be chaining themselves to the forecourt of their nearest BP. Rather than the aforementioned chaining, people are now simply joining a Facebook group that matches up with their chosen issue, and that's as far as it goes. No protest, no campaign, just a familiar logo adorning their social media presence.

The Green and Gold protest at Manchester United is symptomatic of this malaise. For those uninitiated in this particular ‘protest' the Green and Gold harks back to the original colours of Manchester United, formerly Newton Heath. These  scarves have been adopted by a large number of match going United fans to provide a visual representation of their opposition towards their owners, the venal, repulsive Glazer family, headed up by Uncle Malcolm (a moniker more in line with '20 years in Broadmoor' Uncle than ‘knuckle rubs and 112mph in a red sports car' Uncle) and his three bastard spawn, Avram, Bryan and Joel.

As a Manchester United fan and former season ticket holder, I find their ownership of my club repugnant and offensive. That a profitable and prosperous entity such as Manchester United PLC was allowed to fall into their hands, and be saddled with eye watering debt, is a stain on the footballing and legal authorities of this country. Such fiscal luminaries as Liam Gallagher made the point at the time that if a football club is on the stock market, as Manchester United were for 14 years prior to the Glazer's takeover, then they are going to get swallowed up. Agreed, but would this have happened to Bayern Munich in Germany? Would the French government have let some moderately wealthy Yanks purchase Olyimpique Marseille? Maybe they would, but then there would have been more burnt cars on the streets of Marseille than News of the World journalists at the job centre.

Yet it did happen. Which leads us to what has been done since? A breakaway club was formed that is a model for how football clubs should be run. FC United of Manchester are a fine example of what can be achieved by genuine football people, and as the days of £100 standard match tickets get ever nearer, their ‘pay what you can afford' season ticket is a testament to the common sense, fan first thinking of the club. But that's FC United of Manchester, not Manchester United. What can be said of the Green and Gold protest and its impact on Manchester United the global entity? Begun with much fanfare, and given world-wide exposure when David Beckham donned one of their scarves, the protest has been reduced to nothing more than a product extension for tat hawkers outside Old Trafford.

There is inevitably an air of defeat to a protest that runs for 5 years without any significant success or glimmer of change. Perhaps the formation of FC United, in taking away the most vehement anti-Glazer protesters from the Green and Gold cause, has left the protests at Manchester United reduced in their ferocity and rudderless in their plight. But an inability to mount anything more significant than some colour co-ordinated scarves and chanting in rhyming couplets is shameful for a club with an apparently enlightened support such as Manchester United. Where are the on pitch sit ins? The mass walk outs half way through a game? Even something as simple as a boycott of the American Pisswater served before and during each match is apparently beyond them. The recent phone hacking scandal has shown the sway that advertisers and ‘commercial partners' now possess over corporations. Yet, nothing.

It was a movement that in its infancy threatened rowdy revolution, an undermining of the regime and a genuine challenge to an unwanted and unnecessary ownership. It now represents a grudging acceptance that the Glazer family are an immovable force at the helm of Manchester United.

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