One of the top shareholders in Manchester United and Juventus has criticised the football clubs for backing the European Super League, the breakaway football competition that rapidly collapsed last month after provoking strong opposition from fans and politicians.
Lindsell Train, which owns stakes in the English and Italian football heavyweights, said the announcement of the Super League project, which comprised 12 of Europe’s elite clubs, had come as a “surprise”.
The UK fund manager said it had now had meetings with the two clubs and expressed “disappointment about the reputational damage Juventus and Manchester United have inflicted on themselves”.
“Most importantly, we urged them to return to respectful negotiations with all members of the football community to work toward mutually beneficial ends,” wrote fund manager Nick Train in a letter to investors.
“We continue to monitor events closely as they unfold, while considering their implications for our investment case.”
Juventus confirmed that a meeting had taken place but disputed Lindsell Train’s account of discussions. “Unfortunately the content of the meeting seems quite different to what you report in your request,” Juventus said.
“We have the utmost respect and commitment . . . [to a] good relationship with all our shareholders,” the club went on.
Manchester United declined to comment.
Lindsell Train holds 11.3 per cent of Juventus, according to the club’s website, the biggest shareholder after Exor, the Italian holding company that controls a majority stake.
The fund manager also owns almost 30 per cent of New York-listed Manchester United’s class A shares, making it one of the two biggest shareholders outside of the Glazer family, the American billionaires with majority control.
Joel Glazer, co-chairman, has apologised to fans for Manchester United’s involvement in the Super League and vowed to build trust. The team was one of six English sides, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and new English champions Manchester City to back away from the competition. AC Milan, Inter Milan and Atlético Madrid have also stated their intention to withdraw.
Manchester United fans have continued to protest against the Glazers and their ownership of the club, breaking into its home stadium Old Trafford earlier this month and forcing a match against arch-rivals Liverpool to be delayed. More protests were held outside the rescheduled fixture on Thursday night.
However, Juventus, along with Spain’s FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, have continued to stand by the Super League, clashing with Uefa, the European governing body.
Uefa, which organises the Champions League, the most prestigious club tournament in Europe and the incumbent rival to any breakaway threat, has threatened Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus with further disciplinary action if they do not back down.
In a joint statement, the three clubs hit back at Uefa, warning the governing body that they would defend themselves.