Football - United set sights on US market

Manchester United have targeted the lucrative US market as their next area of expansion.

PA Sport Report

With a new Premier League deal just under way, United expect to generate annual revenue in excess of B£420million by this time next year.

Estimates are the new TV contract will represent an increase of "between 35 and 38 per cent on the previous three-year deal" according to Red Devils executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

But evidently, commercial income is the main force behind a 13.4 per cent rise in overall revenue to B£363.2million.

And the United States is where the Old Trafford outfit are looking to expand their horizons now.

"The US market is under penetrated," Woodward said. "It is a very big media market, the most developed sports market in the world.

"But we don't want to deals that are quick and wrong, that tie us up and we regret afterwards.

"We believe there has been an inflection point from 2010-11 when interest levels in football have increased.

"In the last three years the number of people watching Manchester United has gone up by between 30 and 35 per cent each year. NBC reported peak viewership for our game against Chelsea last month was the biggest weekday afternoon audience since the Olympics.

"It is moving away from being a niche sport and into the territory of competing with some of the top sports in the country."

United's massive commercial arm, which will shortly boast an office in New York, in addition to the one that was opened in Hong Kong last year, now represents 42 per cent of total revenue, with sponsorship deals alone amounting to B£90.9million, a rise of 44.1 per cent.

With a new shirt deal with US car giant Chevrolet due to launch next season and negotiations with Nike over an extension to the lucrative manufacturing contract ongoing, the Glazer family have ridden through the storm that accompanied their massively controversial leveraged buyout in 2005.

While debt remains enormous by usual standards - B£389.2million - it is way below the levels it once was and the Glazers still have large cash reserves, in excess of B£50million following the summer arrivals of Marouane Fellaini and Wilfried Zaha.

Still the costs associated with the takeover continue to rise, to around B£680million, which those fans who remain implacably opposed to the Glazer ownership believe would have been better invested in either the squad or a further expansion of Old Trafford.

What some knowledgeable observers now wonder is whether the Glazers will feel sufficient strength in the business to start taking out large dividend payments.

That would attract attention given the relative difficulty Moyes had in bringing in new faces this summer, even though the club insisted they had no intention of being drawn into an "eight-week panic".

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