Manchester United takeover: Fans say new owners must respect LGBTQ+ rights

The rights of LGBTQ+ fans must be respected by any prospective new owners of Manchester United, the Premier League club’s supporters groups say.

The Glazers – the American family which currently owns the Old Trafford club – announced their intention to sell, or possibly seek new investment in, the club in November 2022.

Friday (17 February) was the “soft” deadline for potential buyers to make bids – some of which have sparked worries among the club’s huge fan base.

The club’s official LGBTQ+ supporters club, Rainbow Devils, said it had “deep concern over some of the bids” being made and were “watching the current process closely with this in mind”.

There has been interest from parties in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Homosexuality is illegal in both countries, but the only bid from the region that has been confirmed came from Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hammad Al Thani.

Reuters reported that bids have been received from Saudi Arabia.

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“Rainbow Devils believe any bidder seeking to buy Manchester United must commit to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players and staff,” the group said in a tweet.

This was echoed by another official group, the independent Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), on Sunday (19 February).

The group urged “all bidders to open a dialogue with fans groups alongside the bidding process with the club”, to allow a series of issues to be discussed.

A list of those issues, including debt management and sport development, were published in an open letter from MUST, co-signed by a number of other supporters groups, including the Rainbow Devils, in December 2022.

Host nation Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights was a major talking in the lead up to, and throughout, the men’s World Cup last year.

The Glazers are thought to be demanding £6billion for the club, and Sheikh Jassim, the son of a former Qatari prime minister, has bid for 100 per cent ownership, according to Sky Sports.

In comparison, the boss of chemicals producer Ineos, British businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has placed a majority ownership bid of 69 per cent, which is just the amount the Glazer family own, Sky Sports also reported.

Manchester United has had to confront its own issues around LGBTQ+ support in recent months.

The club promised to tackle homophobia and other forms of discrimination after the “Chelsea rent boy” chant was allegedly aimed at Everton manager Frank Lampard, a former player at the West London club, during an FA Cup match at Old Trafford last month.

At the time, the Rainbow Devils demanded the club take action and condemned the chanting.