Manchester United staff have been informed that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS’ remit will encompass more than solely football operations, as initially outlined when the petrochemicals firm agreed to purchase a 25 per cent stake at the Premier League club.
United held an all-staff meeting on Wednesday — led by interim chief executive Patrick Stewart — and informed employees that INEOS and the Glazer family have reflected on previously agreed arrangements and recognised the scope of the former’s influence will need to be more broadly defined.
Ratcliffe’s team will also liaise with the Glazers on business decisions as they, by definition, will impact the potential of football operations. This will mean that the two ownership groups will need to align with one another on key decisions relating to the business, as dividing up affairs entirely is now felt to be unrealistic.
While it is the case that the primary focus and responsibility of INEOS will be to run football operations, it is now clear that the Glazer family are prepared to provide a broader license and latitude for Ratcliffe’s company to drive change beyond the club’s training base at Carrington in order to bring football success to the club. INEOS feel that the club’s commercial possibilities will be hugely increased by on-field success, and this is also underpinned by the decision to poach Omar Berrada from Manchester City, as his background is in football operations, while also having a commercial pedigree.
Those on the call were also once again promised cultural change across United. Stewart emphasised the club is now committed to instilling a “football first culture”, in which all decisions made by the club hierarchy should be focused on “what’s best for football”.
However, the tone of the call also conveyed that change is both necessary and coming, and this triggered some anxiety following previous reports that Ratcliffe wanted a review of the club’s staffing — an area that has long been considered by many in the industry as bloated.
Staff on the call, who spoke to The Athletic on the condition of anonymity in order to protect their jobs, interpreted the tone as one of change, with some fears that this may lead to a staffing review and potential job cuts.
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Stewart, currently serving as interim CEO, also fielded questions on his incoming replacement, Berrada, whose arrival during the meeting was framed as a positive emblem of change. Berrada will join as United’s new chief executive from rivals City at the end of this season.
Before resigning over the weekend, Berrada had worked at the club and the wider City Football Group since 2011. Berrada’s time at City overlaps with the period (2009-2018) in which the Premier League has hit City with 115 charges relating to false accounting and inflated commercial deals.
And staff on the call took the opportunity to ask Stewart about the period in Berrada’s history relating to the City charges, as well as the corruption charges against Barcelona — another of his former clubs — relating to payments made by the Catalan club to a former Spanish referee chief. Both Manchester City and Barcelona deny any wrongdoing.
Stewart assured staff that United had performed the requisite due diligence, but did not go into any great detail, other than to say United are confident in the integrity and quality of their hire.
Stewart has worked as United’s interim CEO since the end of the year, when Richard Arnold left the role before INEOS’ imminent purchase of a stake in the club.
United announced the $1.3billion INEOS deal in December, which remains subject to receiving all necessary regulatory approvals, including from the Premier League.
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