A defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League may have only made a small dent in the club’s coffers, but another loss to the Spanish champions in the summer could cause more trouble for finance director Nick Humby.
David Beckham’s transfer to Real may not register in this year’s figures – the first payment wasn’t received until September – but it could have a much larger negative impact on future accounts than the fee the club received. As well as his on-field prowess, Beckham has been the club’s cash cow and marketing dream.
Beckham could claim responsibility for a large proportion of the club’s merchandising sales. His superstar status overseas, particularly in southeast Asia, has greatly contributed to the company’s revenue stream. With Beckham gone, it remains to be seen whether Man Utd’s pull will still be as strong for fans outside the UK.
Other recent problems have also thrown doubt over the company’s future success. Earlier this month, the club lost Peter Kenyon as their chief executive to Premiership rival Chelsea. Kenyon was largely credited with making Man Utd into such a strong global brand, and his replacement, former FD David Gill, will have large boots to fill.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea has sparked frenzied speculation that Man Utd is ripe for a change of ownership, and that various wealthy businessmen are lining up to buy the club. Man Utd have been forced to refute this speculation in a statement to the stock exchange.
Alongside this, the club have also been hit by a price-fixing scandal recently. The office of fair trading fined Man Utd around £1.6m for agreeing a fixed price for their replica kit with retailer JJB Sports and kit manufacturer Umbro.
Despite the club’s on-field successes, the resulting turmoil has needed Humby’s steady hand to ensure the club keeps pulling in the big bucks.
But the football team have already started the season well in the league and talented Cristiano Ronaldo could become just as popular with the fans as Beckham. Barring unforeseen disaster, it looks like this particular gravy train is in little danger of derailing.