Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel on Tuesday defended the club’s decision to set up a luxury lounge at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, sparking speculation it is being used to market the team to potential buyers.
Located near software companies, consultancies and global banks, the club has created a lounge on the main street of Davos, a luxurious Swiss ski resort teeming with billionaires and CEOs this week during the annual Forum.
“If you look at what we say about ourselves, we say we’re one of the biggest sports brands in the world, then I think you have to back that up by having a presence in places like this,” Schmeichel, who acts as an ambassador, told AFP.
“Of course our football club is not just about the business side, about making money,” added the Danish legend, who won five Premier League and Champions League titles with United.
Ellie Norman, a spokeswoman for the club, said the lounge, with a bar, multiple seating areas and screens showcasing the club’s heroes, served as a place to meet existing and prospective corporate partners and sponsors.
“We are in a strategic review. That is a process that is ongoing,” he told AFP, referring to the announcement by the Glazer family, which owns the club, in November that they were considering “all strategic alternatives” for the club, including a sale.
“We don’t know the outcome of that, but that’s not related to why we’re back in Davos,” he added, stating that Manchester United had been a World Economic Forum partner since 2019.
Schmeichel said his personal preference would be for fans to buy the club if the United States Glazers put it up for sale, but conceded that this was an unlikely outcome.
“I know there are a lot of fans who want a change of ownership,” he said.
“To me…Would it make a difference to change ownership? I think the only difference would be if it was fan-owned, but I think that’s probably impossible. It’s too big.”
The Glazers have been unpopular with supporters since a £790 million ($934 million) leveraged buyout in 2005 saddled the club with huge debts.
Schmeichel said he was focusing on events on the pitch and was delighted with the club’s turnaround under Erik ten Hag.
“We’ve had to change managers too many times since Alex (Ferguson) left and it’s been very unstable,” said the 59-year-old Dane.
Ten Hag “seems to be a very, very, very capable person and capable of doing what needs to be done.”