Who owns the iconic Old Trafford football stadium, home to Manchester United Football Club? A council decision raises complex legal issues
The legal answer is the Glazer family following a controversial takeover in 2005. However, Manchester United Supporters Trust [MUST] have been granted rights at Old Trafford stadium if the club is ever sold, through a ruling of the local council.
An Asset of Community Value
This ruling classes the ground as an Asset Of Community Value. Unsurprisingly, the current owners of the club anticipate legal implications in the ruling. For example, would a decision to change the club’s name to strengthen its financial position be affected? Would the value in a future sale be influenced?
To the non-legal eye
To the non-legal eye, it all looks rather peculiar. The Trust talks of representing ‘the fans’. I can see the symbolic weight in this. But wait a minute. A few months ago, figures were published claiming a measurable proportion of the World’s population could be classed as Manchester United fans. It could be argued that The Supporters Trust represents millions of fans world wide, or maybe only its signed-up members.
No trivial issue
This is no trivial issue. In the UK at the moment, The Trades Union movement is currently embroiled in a debate regarding the rights they have over the Labour Party, though the individual subscriptions of its members, its block votes representing those member at Labour Party conferences, and its influence over the political policies of The Labour Party. Much politicking is taking place over the rights of individual members (some who are not Labour supporters) to opt out of the political levy included in the existing arrangements.
Which brings us back to Manchester United, its fans, and its legal owners.
Squatters rights and just cause
Another lens through which to examine the story: Various cases have been tested in court throughout the years over squatters rights and tenants rights. Common law principles are often evoked. The cases can become highly fraught, as the parties of weaker power resort to increasingly illegal methods outside the courtrooms, acting in what the individuals under threat believe to be on behalf of a just cause.
Which makes for good newspaper stories. Sometimes victory goes to the just, although more often to the powerful.