A packed Old Trafford.

Woodward: Fans are crucial to fabric of game

Thursday 03 December 2020 22:30

Ed Woodward has told Manchester United fans that the past eight months has “reminded us all of just how crucial you are to the fabric of the game,” as he expressed optimism over the prospect of supporters returning to Old Trafford.

Addressing fan representatives as part of a recent Fans’ Forum on 20 November, executive vice-chairman Woodward echoed Sir Matt Busby’s famous quote, telling the meeting: “This game without fans is nothing”.

Although acknowledging that “further patience” was required as home games continue to be played behind closed doors due to government restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, Woodward said: “We are optimistic that the situation will gradually improve as we head into 2021.

“There are positive indications on vaccines, and we are confident in our ability to host fans in a safe, socially distanced environment, once we get the go-ahead.”

Ed Woodward with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Updating the Fans’ Forum on plans for the return of supporters, Woodward said that, while “public health must always come first,” football should be treated consistently with other sectors.

“We believe the risks associated with watching football in the outdoors at Old Trafford will be significantly less than in many other leisure settings and we will continue to work with fan groups to strongly make this case,” he said. “We trust our fans and know that they will maintain social distancing.”

The Fans’ Forum meeting was held before the UK government announced the go-ahead for the return of a limited number of fans in some areas of the country, but not yet in Greater Manchester, which remains subject to the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions. The minutes of the meeting were published today.
Reflecting on events on the field since the last Forum in April, Woodward highlighted the 14-game unbeaten run to seal third place in last season’s Premier League and great wins against PSG and RB Leipzig on our return to the Champions League this season.

“Of course, we recognise there’s more hard work ahead to achieve the consistency needed to win trophies. But we see positive signs on the pitch and the training ground that reinforce our belief in the progress being made by Ole, his coaching team and the players,” he said.

Woodward recalled how he had told the Forum last April that the club remained committed to strengthening the squad, while being disciplined on spending in light of the pandemic.

“I believe we’ve delivered on that, with the additions we made during the summer taking our total net-spending to over €200m since summer 2019 – more than any other major European club over that period,” he said. “We will continue to support Ole with a planned, long-term approach to recruitment, focused on the summer windows.”
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Woodward also updated fans on discussions with the rest of the Premier League about the economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

“While our strong commercial business puts us in a more resilient position than many clubs, these remain exceptionally challenging times for everyone in football, and especially for clubs in the lower divisions.

“We have been pushing the rest of the Premier League to provide emergency assistance to the EFL on a no-strings-attached basis and we will also remain at the forefront of discussions about reforms to improve the long-term financial sustainability of the entire English football pyramid.

“A strong Premier League and a financially sustainable and robust pyramid are both crucial to the health of the national game and that’s the principle we will continue to pursue within the strategic review recently launched by the Premier League.”

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Addressing speculation about changes to European club football, Woodward said the club was at the centre of discussions about strengthening existing UEFA club competitions in ways that would have “little or no impact on the Premier League”.

“We believe that any changes to European competition post-2024 must be complementary to thriving domestic leagues,” he said.

You can read the minutes of the recent Fans' Forum meeting here.