With big salaries, player profiles growing, team performances dipping, and High Net Worth owners, the risk factor should be taken seriously.
Football is life. Okay, a bit of Ted Lasso here, and yes, it’s soccer to many in North America, but having been born and raised in the North of England, a real hotbed of football culture, I can assure you that football really is life for so many people, especially throughout the home of where football was first played. I was kicking a ball before I could talk, I was attending a game before I could walk, and my Christmas and birthday gifts always included merchandise for my team. I became addicted to football as a youngster and I still am to this day, despite the few highs and the often lows from my team. The saying “It’s in my blood” can be said by most English football fans, believe me, it really is and for many, the only thing they look forward to is going to the next game.
In England and throughout Europe during the 80's and 90's especially, the main concern with football was the rise in orchestrated violence amongst fans. This is still an ongoing problem, however with the increase in policing, the implementation of specialist football violence units, as well as new technology to monitor people and situations, there has now been a downturn, but make no mistake, football violence still occurs. I’ve firsthand experience of this, and whether it’s a domestic league game against a rival team, though all teams are rivals in England and throughout Europe, or an international game, there can be vicious fights that have been arranged around the game, and often the planning of such arrangements is done so with military style precision.
This has been a black mark especially towards the English over the past 30 years, and when the national team travels to another country, there is often a huge and impressive following that go with them. Unfortunately, there is a stain that comes with being an English football fan, and this has been evident with heavy handed policing and over the top action taken by European police, and sometimes this can make the situation far worse. Even at a domestic level, football banning orders have rightly been handed out to those who deserve it, but other’s often get caught up in this and suffer consequences. Innocent people can often be targeted and picked off, an unfortunate thing for anyone just wanting to enjoy a game of football.
Although football hooliganism is likely here to stay for a long time to come and is something that has been impactful to “the beautiful game” over the years, another concerning issue that is on the rise with footballers, team managers, and club owners, is the increase in robbery and violent attacks. For football players and team managers, those whose profile is prominent and recognized by many, not only in the country they are plying their trade, the threat of robbery and attack has increased over the past 10 years. A number of these have been serious attacks, and some, in several Latin American countries in particular, have even resulted in death.
For club owners, whether they are a known multi-millionaire or a prominent billionaire, they too are now being targeted. Not all of the reasoning for this is due to their wealth, rather, with football fans wanting the best for their team and club, some owners can often become a target due to a lack of investment, a choice of shirt sponsor, making poor decisions in the fans mind that affects the club or team, and even a team’s poor performance can be directed towards the owners themselves. I give you The Glazer Family who own Manchester United, as an example of the animosity and hatred towards the owners of not just a football club, but the world’s biggest. More on them later.
As a security advisor and keen football fan, I’ve watched with interest the rise in attacks against football players, managers, and owners, for several years now, and having carried out some research ahead of writing this article, I wanted to share my thoughts and insights because I view it as alarming and concerning. Some of the bigger clubs in world football also hold this concern, especially with their big-name players who are famous the world over, and who are also making significant salaries on a weekly basis. When it’s public knowledge that a particular player is making $200,000, $400,000, or even greater than that per week, then that player is at risk, no matter how much you sugar coat it or how much that individual avoids posting on social media.
Some of the bigger football clubs have hired full time Close Protection personnel to safeguard their stars daily, including while a game is going on. If you watch any of the big teams in action and if you look closely, you’ll likely notice an individual or several people in suits near the tunnel when the teams come out. These people are not just for show or are they selling insurance, they have a serious job to do and have been tasked with keeping their stars and high value assets, safe. This can cost a significant amount of money but it’s an investment that needs to happen, yet most high-profile footballers don’t want to have that insurance around them when they are away from their place of work, or around their families for that matter.
Recently, Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami, and with that signing came a huge wave of interest not only on him and the club, but his wife and children too. Inter Miami signed Messi not only due to his exceptional talent, but to also boost their club profile, in doing so though, they unintentionally increased the risk to Messi and his family. This wouldn't be something new to them, because Messi has been a world superstar for many years, but this was a new environment for the family.
Having lived in Europe for so many years, primarily in Barcelona and then Paris for a short while, they will have been used to the restrictions which comes with being wealthy and famous. They will have been used to people hanging around near their homes or recognizing and approaching them during any shopping trips or while dining out. Whether or not they had Close Protection is not for me to dive into here, I believe I know the answer to that but this isn’t the point I’m making, it’s about recognizing that players like Lionel Messi and other high profile footballers can be a target for robbery, home invasion, as well as kidnap and ransom. Yes, some of the bigger clubs may now be investing in protecting such stars, but is it enough and what is too little or too much? This can often be an unknown until something bad occurs, and then it is too late, damage done.
When you’re at the level of someone like Lionel Messi, can you ever have too much security? You can of course have too little, but if the family don’t want that around them all the time, then the family are going to go along with that. Not long after Messi and his family arrived in Miami, having been on holiday in the Caribbean, a video surfaced online of he and his family visiting a grocery store. As expected, plenty of people recognized him and asked for pictures which he obliged them with, but I didn't see any Close Protection with the family. Of course, most people just want to be up close and get a picture or an autograph, but don’t for one minute think that just because something hasn't happened in the past, doesn't mean it won’t happen in the present or the future, because the reality is that an incident or an attack could happen at any time and at any place.
People like Lionel Messi aren’t stupid, they know their net worth and how famous they are, and they’ll also be kept aware of crazy letters and persons of interest, receiving briefings from club personnel or even the police if warranted. It happens, they are superstars, fans can be infatuated, it can make people’s lives complete just to say hello to them but, some are also watching, some may even be planning, and then suddenly it all changes. We seen this happen with another high-profile individual, namely Kim Kardashian, who was visiting Paris for Fashion Week in October 2016. Although not a footballer, she does have an extremely high profile and net worth, so the risks to her were and still are very real. Yet, the incident that took place with Kim Kardashian was successful, despite her having Close Protection with her on the trip.
Some serious errors and decisions were made by both Kim Kardashian as well as her Close Protection individual / team, and I’ve previously talked about this in an earlier article, yet it was an error in judgement and a failure to adapt or acknowledge that the risks posed to the individual were ever real. The Kardashian robbery is the largest robbery of an individual in France in 20 years, according to a French newspaper. Not only could this have been avoided, certainly with the excessive use of social media, but it could also have been prevented by not being careless and deficient with her personal security. I am in no way suggesting that the security in place for Lionel Messi is wrong or inadequate because I simply do not know to what level he has coverage, but I do know that it should be taken very seriously to prevent something serious from occurring.
If you’ve watched a recent Inter Miami game when Messi has been playing, you may have noticed an individual walking up and down the touchline, he’s not there to hand out water, he’s keeping a close eye on his charge. This to me is a good measure to put in place and although an unfortunate thing to see, it’s a required measure in this day and age, especially with such a high-profile player. It’s the first time I’m noticing it in my years of being a football fan, and although others in the past have had Close Protection especially on a match day, the Inter Miami approach is new in terms of protecting the player while he’s playing. David Beckham is a player that had a similar, albeit not as big, of a profile as Lionel Messi. I know he had Close Protection because I’ve been around them when he was still playing the game, but as for full time coverage, I do not believe that was the case, and the same applies to Messi now, but again, they just may not want that.
Over the past two-years, we’ve seen a staggering increase in the role that Saudi Arabia are playing in bringing high profile players to the country. The goal, excuse the pun, is to increase its popularity as a league as well as a country. But, to attract the top talent in the world of football, they are offering an extortionate amount of money to players, with the likes of Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema, N’golo Kante, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and even former Liverpool midfielder, Jordan Henderson, all heading to Saudi’s top sides. These salaries are excessive at any level, but being so publicly known to the world can bring a new level of risk to the players, irrelevant of where they play or live. Each of these players have already gained substantial wealth throughout their careers, and now having moved to Saudi, that wealth will increase dramatically. Of course, most of us would take that opportunity, but we’d need to incorporate the risk component too.
To give you an idea on what exactly I’m talking about in terms of wages, I’ve included below what each of these players are worth as well as the contract amount at their new clubs.
Ronaldo | Club: Al Nassr | Net Worth: $500 million | Contract: $400 million over 2 years.
Neymar | Club: Al Hilal | Net Worth: $250 million | Contract: $260 million over 2 years.
Karim Benzema | Al Ittihad | Net Worth: $80 million | Contract: $321 million over 3 years.
N’golo Kante | Club: Al Ittihad | Net Worth: $25 million | Contract: $86 million over 4 years.
Sadio Mane | Club: Al Nassr | Net Worth: $30 million | Contract: $165 million over 4 years.
Roberto Firmino | Club: Al Ahli | Net Worth: $32 million | Contract: $60 million over 3 years.
Jordan Henderson | Club: El Etiffaq | Net Worth: $28 million | Contract: $120 million over 3 years.
These are staggering numbers, and it not only shows how much football has grown financially, but also what clubs are prepared to offer star players and yet the reason is not only to help them win games, cups, and leagues, but to also help promote their club, city, and even country, especially as Saudi Arabia has had significant negative press over the years. I pose the question again, would you or I move to a country such as Saudi for one of these contracts? Yes. As for Lionel Messi in Miami, he’s worth $600 million, and will take an additional $150 million for the next two years.
For the players who are already there or are going to Saudi, some may question the likelihood of an attack against any of them due to their profile and financial standing, especially within the country of Saudi Arabia, but they aren’t under lock and key. They travel to their homelands to visit family, they go on vacation to other countries, and they have multiple homes around the world that they spend time at. We should not assume that they are under a protective umbrella 24/7, because I know that to not be the case. They may be driven to training or to a game, and they may have security teams at their homes, but some if not all do not travel with Close Protection. They may feel comfortable just with their families, or they may have friends who travel with them, but rarely will they have any form of security unless they are making an official appearance, and any security that is present will likely be provided by the event team, the club, or the host.
This of course doesn't just apply to the high earning stars playing football in Saudi Arabia, there are so many others who make a significant amount of money around the world, and that of course doesn’t just relate to football players. I recently seen some of the numbers that players of baseball and American football earn, astonishing figures, and of course the same risks apply. But, when it comes to individual player profiles, the spotlight is heavily on football players such as those I’ve already mentioned. Over the years there has been numerous attacks on football players, or they’ve encountered home invasions. These have varied in level of attack and impact, but any attack can have a significant impact. Although most have been for financial gain, there are a number of attacks that haven’t been, instead they’ve been focused on fan anger.
Andrés Escobar was Colombia’s captain during the USA World Cup in 1994. He was a gifted player though not on the level of some of the ones today. Escobar scored an own goal during the game against the USA and Colombia were subsequently eliminated from the World Cup. Accounts from friends and family over the coming weeks stated that Escobar was devastated by his own goal that caused Colombia to be out of the competition, anybody would feel the same as he did. He spent his time staying at home and not going out, he was both embarrassed and there was a fear for his safety, but one month after returning home, Escobar decided to go out with friends for the first time since his return from the World Cup. He called his friend, Chonto Herrera, to invite him along. Herrera told him to stay in, advising Escobar it would probably be best if they laid low. His manager shared Herrera’s concerns and told his player to be careful. “I said, ‘the streets are dangerous”, Maturana recalled. “Here conflicts aren’t resolved with fists. Andrés, stay at home. But Andrés said “No, I must show my face to my people”.
According to eye-witness reports, Escobar showed his face to the wrong people. Upon arriving at Medellín’s El Indio Bar with friends, the footballer enjoyed a few drinks and was happily talking to fellow revelers when a few people began insulting him, sarcastically cheering his error against the USA. Escobar left the premises, but the four-strong group hurling abuse followed him, continued their tirade, and loudly labelled him a “faggot”. Upset, Escobar drove his car across the car park to reason with his detractors, insisting his own goal had been “an honest mistake”.
An already tense situation escalated and at least one gun was produced and fired. Six bullets tore through the flesh and bone of Escobar’s back as he sat at the wheel of his car. An ambulance was called, but it was too late. Less than 30 minutes later, Andrés Escobar was declared dead. In the wake of the shooting, it was assumed and reported that the attack was a revenge slaying perpetrated by gangsters who had shipped heavy losses betting on Colombia at the World Cup.
Although the killing of Escobar occurred in 1994, it should not be assumed that this type of thing, although rare, doesn't happen in the present day. More recently, only a few days before writing this article, the President of a Colombian second division football team was fatally shot dead by hitmen after his club's defeat. Edgar Paez had been at the helm of Tigres de Bogota since 2016 and was driving home from the club's Metropolitano de Techo stadium in the capital city when he was targeted by two men on a motorbike. The 64-year-old received four shots to the neck and skull, and despite a swift transfer to the Mederi Clinic, Paez died at the hospital from the severity of his injuries. Tigres FC had earlier lost 3-2 to Atletico FC de Cali at their home ground. The two hitmen were thought to be trailing the vehicle shared by Paez, his wife, and his daughter after leaving the stadium for several minutes before the attack, and quickly fled the scene.
These attacks were as severe as they could be, but there may have been more to them than just losing a game of football, as was stated. Even so, fans can become extremely angry against players, managers, and owners, and as we work through these, another person who received an exceptional amount of abuse including death threats, was David Beckham. I followed this closely both as an England fan as well as being in personal security, and I found the abuse that became publicly known, to be highly concerning for Beckham and his family, and of course, he’d need to increase the safety of himself and that of his family.
For many, they know David Beckham as a former football player who is now a co-owner of Inter Miami, but what some may not know is the level of hatred that came his was when he was sent off while playing for England in a quarter final match against Argentina, during the 1998 World Cup in France. In the second round (last 16) of that competition, having been fouled by Argentinian midfielder, Diego Simeone, Beckham lashed out and received a red card. Many were appalled at the theatrics of Simeone and said that it was a ploy to get Beckham sent off, well it worked. Beckham was a star player for England, and it was a big blow, so much so that England were eliminated from the World Cup and for many, it was Beckham’s fault.
Many supporters and journalists blamed him for England's elimination, and he soon became the target of criticism and abuse, including the hanging of an effigy outside a pub in London, and one major newspaper in the UK even printed a dartboard with a picture of him centered on the bullseye. The abuse that Beckham was receiving from English supporters peaked during England's 3–2 defeat by Portugal in Euro 2000, two years after his sending off in France, and despite Beckham setting up two goals, a group of England supporters taunted him throughout the match.
Beckham responded by raising his middle finger and, while the gesture attracted some criticism, many of the newspapers that had previously encouraged his vilification asked their readers to stop abusing him. The tone had very much been set though, and Beckham would become a target for many. I found this to be extremely unfortunate for one of England’s greatest sporting talents. When you’re playing in a highly competitive game against a rival team, and the world spotlight is on you, then your emotions are understandably high. He shouldn't have reacted to Simeone’s antics, especially as they’d been predicted to occur before the game, but he did, and he suffered inside from being sent off. To then get the level of abuse that came his way, as well as receiving death threats towards both himself and his family, that was wrong. The guy made a mistake, it may or may not have cost England the game and even the team’s chances of progressing in the competition, but these death threats were coming out of England, not a country in Latin America.
Of course, the Beckham’s had to increase their security, they had no choice in the matter either. With the fame and fortune of both he and his wife, it would be rare that you’d see David and Victoria without Close Protection. They may not have wanted it, but they knew they’d need to bring in professionals to safeguard them, and that insurance policy will have given them peace of mind. Not everyone is that way though, and I know of some who have adamantly refused to have Close Protection, despite serious threats coming their way. Most have been Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, and they may not have the fame of a football player, a celebrity, or a prominent businessperson such as Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, but their net worth was similar, and the risks to them were still present. When that risk is evaluated, it’s not just done so based on the level they are known, there are so many factors that come into it. It just so happens that for high profile footballers, they are very well known to so many people, both good and bad.
David Beckham isn’t the only high-profile player to have been at risk in England in recent times. The rise in attacks and home invasions against Premier League footballers, has grown significantly, and in part that can be due to the rise in social media, even though some players stay away from it. With that said though, there are many high-profile players who enjoy not only using social media, but also show off their lifestyle and toys. There must be a balance and both safety and humility should to considered, as not everybody likes to see young men or women for that matter, flaunting their mansions, Lamborghini’s, and which of their expensive watches they are wearing today, or do they want to see their luxurious holidays. Of course, these people have huge fan bases, and the majority take a keen interest in their personal lifestyles, but there are some who are looking with criminal intent in mind. The use of social media has become the norm in today’s society for not only footballers but athletes, celebrities, influencers, and those of significant wealth, and many have one thing in common, and that is their exposure to risk.
For the football players especially though, and as I’ve already mentioned, salaries and length of contracts are so publicly known, and as well as parts of their lifestyle being visible on social media, both do not go unnoticed to gangs and crime organizations, which have been contributing factors to some of the attacks that have taken place in recent times.
One individual who enjoys posting on Instagram is former Chelsea and England captain, John Terry. Both he and his wife Toni will often post photographs and videos to their separate accounts that highlight their travels to places such as Dubai, a popular destination for them both. In February 2017, they had recently shared photographs of their exclusive gated estate in England including the front door and luxury interior of their mock Georgian property, which previously belonged to golf star Colin Montgomerie. Not long after this, the couple headed to the French Alps on holiday, and posted a picture of themselves on the ski slopes, for all of Terry’s 3.4 million followers at the time, to see. That’s a lot of unknown people to broadcast your travels to, and possibly your current location, but its potentially not the only thing you’re telling people. When you advertise your wealth, where you’re traveling to, staying at, having dinner at, or the event you’re attending, then you open yourself up to unnecessary risk, and that’s exactly what happened with John Terry.
The photo Terry posted showed he and his wife with the beautiful scenery of the Alps behind them, along with the comment “a great few day’s skiing with the family’. Other than to those close to Terry and his wife, nobody would know if they’d posted the picture after they returned home to their £5 million mansion in Oxshott, in the south of England, or if it had been posted while they were still on holiday. There may of course have been an assumption that they were still on holiday though, and that’s exactly how several men were able to successfully raid their home and steal £400,000 worth of designer bags and jewelry. Realizing their Surrey mansion was likely to be empty based on the photograph of the couple in the French Alps, the thieves, armed with axes, broke in and ransacked the home, and they did so for 45 minutes without any resistance.
A housekeeper was living on the property in an upstairs apartment and was onsite and asleep at the time, and although he woke and noticed security lights going on and off around the property around midnight, he put this down to it being a fox outside. Not long after that though, the housekeeper was awoken again by loud banging coming from the master bedroom which triggered the house alarm, and the burglars made their escape. The damage and theft had already been done though, and the burglars had grabbed what they came for, though they were later caught and charged with the break in and theft. Terry currently has over 8 million followers on Instagram, an increase of 4.5 million followers since the robbery, while his wife Toni has over 300,000, and they still post pictures of their international travels. Let’s hope they learned from the unfortunate incident that took place at their home, and that they post these pictures after their holidays, though I’ve no doubt they’ve increased their residential security measures now also.
There have been numerous other attacks and burglaries carried out against footballers, though not all have been down to them posting on social media. As the Swedish football star Victor Lindelof was helping Manchester United beat Brentford 3-1 at a packed stadium in west London, his wife and their two children were locking themselves in a specially installed panic room as burglars ransacked their home. Other high-profile players who have been attacked or had home break in’s include Raheem Sterling and Reece James, who both play for Chelsea and England, Barcelona’s Joao Cancelo, Karim Benzema, Nicolas Otamendi, as well as Angel Di Maria.
Di Maria, the talented midfielder of Benfica and Argentina, has encountered two attempts of being robbed, one was unsuccessful, but the other was a big win for the robbers. While playing for Manchester United in 2015, three armed men used scaffolding poles in an attempt to force entry into the player’s house, but despite smashing the windows of the mansion, they left empty-handed after an alarm was triggered and they subsequently fled. Having moved to Paris after signing a contract with Paris St Germain, Di Maria was taken off the pitch during a game against Nantes after it was found his wife and children had been the victims of a violent burglary at their Paris home while he was playing. The robbers made off with £500,000 of items from Di Maria and his wife. Astonishingly, during the same game that Di Maria was taken off, one of his teammates, Marquinhos, was also burgled. The Brazilian’s father was at the family home and was battered around the head before the thieves made off with valuables.
The violence committed against footballers and their families is very real and is escalating. Analysis by VICE World News showed that at least 80 of Europe’s top football players, including three managers, have had their homes raided since the trend started in the mid-2000s, a time when the highest player wages first hit £100,000 a week. Now the world’s top paid football players are making so much more than that. Clearly, the number of footballers whose homes have been raided, often violently, for expensive watches, gems and cars has been on the rise across Europe for some time now, but all should know that they are at risk in some capacity, one would hope so anyway. Football clubs offer guidance and support, but ultimately it is down to each player how they look after themselves, their families, as well as their homes.
Criminal gangs and those who are looking for the opportunity to gain from people of wealth and perhaps fame, will always exist, and people like that are going to get ideas, especially when it is so known what someone is worth, what watch they are wearing, or what collections they might have. This is why I’ve had a concern with the risk exposure of high-profile footballers and sports starts for some time, and, it is only growing. Of course, when you have a talent and are being heavily rewarded for that then it should be enjoyed, but it is imperative to ensure that it’s enjoyed without exposing themselves or their families to unnecessary risk. There is no doubt that some of the higher value players have fancy security systems at their homes, but some of these criminals are experts in home penetration and are able to bypass the measures in place. They are professional career burglars – and many are members of international gangs that are dedicated to targeting Europe’s elite footballers, either by being cunning or through extreme violence.
Such is the prize for many of these criminals, some are flying across the world to strike their targets. Their research and planning are meticulous, they know their target, where they live, who they live with, and to a certain degree, what their vulnerabilities might be, and, importantly to the criminals, they know what the value of their prize might be. Members of Albanian and Romanian gangs have been responsible for some of the high value robberies in England, and a team of professional thieves had flown over from Chile to target a string of homes, including those of footballers, in the upmarket area of Prestbury and Alderley Edge in Cheshire, northwest England.
It does not matter to the international criminal where in the world the opportunity might be, because if the reward is big enough then it’s worth the risk. It has been no different in France, Spain, and Italy, where incidents have happened and homes have been targeted, some successfully. In October 2019, Spanish police and Europol said they had “smashed” an international burglary ring suspected of flying into Spain from abroad to target the homes of La Liga players while they were playing matches. It was believed that the criminal group monitored the players’ activities through their social media accounts to know when to strike. In some cases, there were family members inside the homes when the criminal group entered, and to most of these hardened criminals, they simply don’t care, because if there is resistance then they will just hurt or even kill them, that is the reality of what we are talking about here.
Clearly social media can often be a vulnerability for those of fame and wealth, we seen it with Kim Kardashian when she was robbed in Paris, and we are seeing it now with the attacks and robberies of high-profile footballers. It is very much up to each of these individuals to be aware of the risks that could potentially come their way, but I fear that some will pay no attention to it and continue putting themselves in danger. Just like with celebrities, most footballers enjoy the attention and celebrity like status they receive, and it’s why so many post about their lifestyle's, it gives fans an insight into their lives. But sadly, there is a downside to this exposure and those who are looking for a target are also watching carefully. They may indeed follow a player on Instagram, they may even like some of their posts, all under a carefully set profile, but they are watching for that one post that makes that player go from a potential target to an absolute target.
Although a focus of this article is on the concerns for high-profile footballers, it’s important to highlight that owners of football clubs are not immune from being targeted, but this isn't just from a physical standpoint. With the bigger teams around the world especially, many are owned by billionaire individuals or families, and with their net worth, they may be familiar with personal security and have state of the art security systems in their homes. Some of them have full time close protection personnel and teams who safeguard them on a 24/7 basis, and this will have been in place long before becoming a football club owner. In the Premier League, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, who own’s Manchester City, American businessman Stan Kroenke of Arsenal, fellow American businessman Todd Boehly own’s Chelsea, while continuing the American themed trend, John Henry and Tom Werner, the founders of Fenway Sports Group, own Liverpool.
Outside of the Premier League, Paris St. Germain are owned by Qatar’s Nasser Al-Khelafi, Juventus are owned by the Agnelli Family, and Roma are owned by American billionaire Dan Friedkin. Each of these owners as well as many more who I’m not listing, are billionaires many times over, of course they know what security measures and precautions they should take. With that said, one family who I didn't list of Premier League club owners, is the Glazer Family. Classed as ‘the biggest club in the world’, largely due to fanbase and merchandise sales, and not based on recent years of average performances, Manchester United would always be an attractive purchase for any billionaire, and when the opportunity came to buy the club for $790m in 2005, the Glazer’s struck.
Initial impressions often stick, and when they made their first appearance a home game at Old Trafford, on the night of June 30, 2005, the Glazer’s, with Joel, Bryan, and Avram in attendance, would all get a sense of what was to come as the new owners of Manchester United. The family are no strangers to owning big teams and having bought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the American NFL in 1995, they will have appreciated that fans can turn when the team isn't doing so well. Here at Old Trafford, and in the months and years that would follow, they would realize that this was very much a whole new ball game, and indeed it was.
They had managed to get into the ground unnoticed, but it was a very different story when they tried to leave. Hundreds of United supporters congregated outside the Executive and Player’s Entrance and were shouting "Die, Die, Glazer,", all in unison, some even tried to enter the stadium, prompting the deployment of riot police and dog handlers. Fans erected barriers to stop the Glazers from leaving Old Trafford, forcing officers to bundle the trio into a police van to evacuate them safely. This was their first game, and clearly the fans were against the family buying the club. Make no mistake, football fans who are against a club’s owners, can cause significant impact to a club’s brand and even a team’s performance. They were intent from the news of the purchase, to let the Glazer’s know that they weren't welcome at their club.
Since their purchase of the club, the United supporters have continued their hatred of the owners, with frequent demonstrations both at home and away games, as well as during club and fan meetings. The main reason being that the Glazer’s were undeserving of owning the biggest football club in the world, and many viewed it as billionaires wanting to be richer billionaires. This wasn't helped when they invested just £270m of their own money into the deal -- the rest was borrowed against United, instantly plunging the club into more than £500m worth of debt. In short, United had a long history of achieving great things and attracting some of the world’s best players, but many were fearing a shift on the field, and in time they would be proven right.
Despite the hatred they generate among the United fans, the Glazers remain in control to this day, but there is a huge sense of hope that a sale of the club is coming soon. British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the INEOS chemicals group, with a net worth of £20.9 billion, as well as Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the son of Qatar’s former Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, with a family net worth of £275 billion, have both made recent bids to buy the club, and both seem intent on winning the race. The Glazer’s though, are no fools when it comes to business and they know how to play the game, holding out for the highest offer possible, but this only continues to increase the hatred from the fans towards them.
One would assume that the Glazer’s have had personal security given their vast wealth, however just because they are billionaires doesn't always mean that to be the case, and I recently ran into Avram Glazer in Switzerland and he had no security with him, not even the ones who hide in the shadows. You can rest assured though that Manchester United will have plenty available to them should they visit Old Trafford again, though it might be best if they avoided it right now.
What also hasn't helped matters for the Glazer’s, is the rise of the blue side of Manchester, namely City, who have grown from being a low-level team with little money, to now being the best in the world and one of the most financially secure. In plain terms, Manchester City have overtaken Manchester United, and the City fans let their fierce rivals know about it at every opportunity, which only adds to the animosity from the United fans towards the Glazer’s.
When you have two teams such as City and United in the same area, where pure hatred exists, it will often spill over into violence amongst fans, especially when they play each other. It can be said that if City were to lose a game, that is on the rare occasion, then it is more accepting so long as United got beat too. The hatred is real, but the same can be said the world over when you have two teams in the same city or close to each other from a geographic standpoint, such as Liverpool and Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal, Rangers and Celtic, AC Milan and Inter Milan, Roma and Lazio, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, and Boca Juniors and River Plate to name just a few, but for United, they have far more going on in terms of trying to get their owners out of the club they love.
The Glazer’s are not the only club owner’s to be disliked, but in current times I’d say they are the most at risk given the volume of people who are against them. They should also know that Manchester United fans really are all around the world, and all it takes is one who wants to make a name for themselves and cause harm or embarrassment to one or more of them. It happens, it could easily happen too, and this is why you have subject matter experts in the field of personal security to advise on serious matters like this. Should those at risk decide to continue rolling the dice with their safety, and that includes players too, then they are leaving themselves wide open and vulnerable, and when you have a vulnerability as well as a threat, then there is the risk.
I do fear that these risks toward players, managers, and owners will continue to rise, I can only hope that those of significant fame and fortune, take the right precautions for themselves and their families. They can have all the fancy car’s, nice watches, and significant wealth, but they must make smart choices when it comes to their personal security and risk exposure.
Glen Burton | Contributing Writer
Glen Burton served in the British Army for 10-years before moving into the field of Executive / Close Protection, and for the last 23-years he has been an operator, consultant, and leader. Over the course of his career, Glen has led protective operations in over 200-countries for UHNW families, Fortune 100 Leadership Teams, as well as members of International Royal Families. He specializes in developing and managing protective programs and provides strategic guidance and support across the globe to help protect people, reputations, as well as high value assets.
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