Manchester United are cutting 250 jobs – why?


Jean-Claude Blanc stood in front of the Manchester United’s workforce on Wednesday and informed them that the club plans to make 250 of them redundant.

The blow to employees comes at a time when Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s co-owner, continues his efforts to reduce outgoings at Old Trafford.

And as part of those cost-cutting exercises, Blanc, the interim chief executive, told staff that they would be making sweeping redundancies.

Annie Hale, United’s head of HR, was alongside Blanc when the news was delivered but Ratcliffe and Sir Dave Brailsford, the director of sport at Ineos and a board member at United, were absent.

The Athletic breaks down the latest cost-saving measures…

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What have Manchester United proposed?

United have set the wheels in motion for a club-wide redundancy programme that will mean 250 employees lose their jobs.

They say it is a decision that has not been taken lightly and that alternative routes were considered, but they only led to short-term solutions.

United’s redundancy programme is a management decision that has been agreed by both ownership groups — meaning the Glazer family, who retain overall control, signed it off.

The fact the Glazers are relaxed about INEOS making significant changes has been noted as a reflection of their confidence in Ratcliffe and his leadership team.

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Blanc, the interim chief executive, delivered the news to staff (Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

How many jobs are they looking to cut?

United are seeking to cut 250 jobs across all departments and levels — except from, they say, the Manchester United Foundation, their charity arm — before the start of the 2024-25 season.

The Athletic revealed in May that the club’s non-football staff — ie, excluding scouts and the playing staff — had been offered voluntary redundancy.

That offer, valid until June 5, was made to personnel at Old Trafford, their Carrington training base and their central London office.

INEOS anticipated that around 20 per cent of the employees would take it up on the proposal, which would have seen staff receive their annual bonuses, but few did.

Why are they doing this?

To save money.

When INEOS’ minority investment was ratified in February, it quickly hired Interpath Advisory, a consultancy firm, to review the business and operational costs across the club.

INEOS feels the workforce at United is bloated compared to other Premier League sides and that its size does not reflect their football performance in recent years, despite the club beating Manchester City to win the FA Cup in May.

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The cost review identified financial savings and “non-essential” activities it can stop, which, in turn, can help United better comply with the financial regulations of the Premier League and UEFA, European football’s governing body.

There is a belief from the hierarchy that there are more employees than they need to deliver success, which is another of their motivations for reducing the headcount and costs.

What has the reaction been?

Even though the potential for jobs being cut has been trailed since the end of last year, there was still a sense of surprise when the news was delivered. While those inside the room highlighted there was no sudden gasp, they noted a solemn mood.

Nearly a quarter of United’s workforce will be made redundant and many, understandably, could point to the money wasted on transfer fees over the past decade, which totals more than £1billion ($1.27bn), and exorbitant wages offered to under-performing players.

INEOS made clear from the beginning that its focus was on making the football team successful again — meaning this decision could be viewed as just a brutal example of them carrying out what they think it will take to return the club to winning ways.

Yet, staff members were only told several months ago that they were crucial to helping contribute to on-field success, and now 250 of them are going to be out of work.

A prominent supporters’ representative, speaking anonymously to The Athletic to protect relationships, noted: “If the club wants to make real savings, there are players we would sooner see offloaded than witnessing hard-working club staff pay the price.”

Have they introduced other cost-cutting measures?

At an all-hands meeting in May, Ratcliffe told staff they could no longer work from home and ordered them back to the office.

In some quarters, INEOS’ plan was viewed as radical and they received pushback from Patrick Stewart, who was interim CEO before being replaced by Blanc and is no longer an employee.

Another measure INEOS took to save on costs, which was widely unpopular with staff, was to ask employees to pay £20 to travel on a club-provided coach to the men’s FA Cup final against Manchester City in May at London’s Wembley Stadium.

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United staff were asked to contribute towards their travel to the FA Cup final (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Traditionally, United’s workforce had been offered a free ticket to such games — something INEOS continued to respect — but this time they had to contribute towards their travel and were not provided with any food on the 400-mile (320km) round trip.

Company credit cards have also been taken away from staff members in another cost-cutting exercise.

How does United’s workforce compare to other clubs?

The accounts for the year ended June 30, 2023, reveal that United have an average of 1,112 monthly employees, up from 1,035 in 2022 and 983 in 2021. It is the largest workforce in the Premier League.

Liverpool’s accounts for the year ended say they have 1,008 employees. Of those, 701 are categorised as working in ‘administration, commercial and other’, with another 238 being players, managers and coaches.

Manchester City, the Premier League winners for the last four seasons, had an average of 520 employees, including players and football staff (201), in the year ended June 30, 2023, which is less than half of United’s.

It is worth noting, however, that City are part of a multi-club umbrella organisation, City Football Group, which has additional personnel.

At the other end of the Premier League scale, Brentford’s accounts for the year ended show they had a monthly average of 243 employees, which includes players and training staff (129).

(Top photo: Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)



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