The chief executive is not the most glamorous position within a football club. Perfectly understandably, football fans love and hate players and managers; comparatively, those on the business side of football are generally viewed with mere indifference, lurking in the background, rarely showing their faces. Such a businessperson would have to do something special to attain the same levels of adoration or detestation as a footballer.
David Gill took up his post as chief executive of Manchester United in 2003. He has experienced a turbulent relationship with United’s fans during his time at this post: a relationship that began fairly well on account of the fact that he wasn’t that bald [insert favourite expletive] Peter Kenyon.
After shiny-headed loyal fan man-of-the-people Kenyon defected to join the Chelski revolution, his replacement was always going to be seen in a better light; Gill was thrust into the spotlight after being promoted from within Old Trafford, displaying an air of confident professionalism, and, more importantly, little pretence of fandom.
Gill was never “popular” amongst United fans. He just came across as an employee of the club: a decent guy, who seemed alright at his job. Prior to 2005, he was irrelevant, really, in the eyes of the fans: some suit from down south. He was hardly loved but certainly wasn’t hated. What changed was, as you no doubt already know, was the takeover of the Glazer family. Gill’s attitude before the takeover had been negative towards the Glazers. In fact, to read some of the things he said at the time, he almost sounds as though he could be a fan. Speaking in 2004, Gill stated:
“We have been looking at the proposals the Glazer family made, analysing them with our advisors, and the key aspect of that proposal was the level of debt they were going to use in order to make their offer. We felt as a board that that level of debt, coupled with their business plan, meant it was an unattractive proposal.”
Gill put all his eggs in one basket with quotes such as this, and, once the takeover had been completed in the summer of 2005, had to scurry back to take them out of said basket and into the one marked “Actually, the Glazers’ Business Plan is Perfectly Sound”.
He clearly had to show support for them in order to hang onto his job; naturally, however, United fans did not view this in a particularly sympathetic light, and Gill has become a target of abuse. Banners highlighting his pre-takeover quotes have been shown at Old Trafford, and United fans have been known to boo his son, Oliver, when he’s been named on the bench for United (the fact that Oliver Gill gets anywhere near the United bench is a disgrace, he wouldn’t make it at Rochdale).\
So what is David Gill? A liar? Hypocrite? A suck-up to the new boss? Or just a bloke who did what he had to do to hold onto his job? Some may not consider it fair to attack Gill like this. Certainly it gets a bit personal when the fans are getting onto his son’s back. He’s turned into something of a scapegoat; Fergie himself has made pro-Glazer comments, but with what he’s done for the club, he’s untouchable. What naysayers may not realise, however, is that the Green and Gold campaign is a with-us-or-against-us deal. Gill has placed himself firmly in the ‘against’ bracket.
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