Manchester United have money for a YouTube channel, but not a women’s team. Why?

Manchester United may be stuck with the Glazers for years to come
Manchester United may be stuck with the Glazers for years to come

Fans turning up at Old Trafford for the clash between Manchester United and Chelsea were confronted by a visual representation of the club’s latest venture. The East Stand’s glass facade is often used as something of a billboard for United’s many commercial partners, and on Sunday it was plastered with a familiar logo, promoting

At long last, Manchester United have a YouTube channel and they have stopped at nothing in letting us all know about it. Of course, it’s somewhat surprising that they didn’t have one before now. After all, they have long been English football’s most searched for club on the platform. They were the last Premier League club not to have an official YouTube channel of their own.

This was viewed as a gaping hole in United’s social media, and commercial strategy. They have quite clearly committed substantial funds to this new venture, as demonstrated by the standard of the channel’s production value and the scale of its reach. But there remains one last gaping hole in the club’s current strategy.

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Manchester United are the only Premier League club not to have a women’s team. The Women’s Super League, which was revamped in 2010, consists of some of the biggest clubs in the country over two tiers – Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Spurs. But there is no Manchester United, not in the Women’s Super League, not anywhere.

This is peculiar for a club and organisation of Man Utd’s size and stature. Keep in mind that this is a club which has 65 official commercial partners around the world, a club that collected €676 million in revenue last year. By Deloitte’s estimation, they are the richest club in world football, ahead of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and all the rest.

So it’s not as if United are short of cash. Far from it. So if there are no commercial reasons for them not to have a women’s team, what’s the explanation? Man Utd had a women’s team up until 2005 when, just months after the Glazers’ takeover, it was scrapped. The reason given then was that a women’s team wasn’t in the club’s “core business” interests. So is that still the case?

Back in 2005, Man Utd’s women’s team cost just £60,000 a season to operate. To put that into perspective, Paul Pogba earns nearly six times that every week. Of course, the men’s game is still far more lucrative than the women’s, so is that to say that United’s choice not to have a women’s team is purely down to finance?

Women’s football isn’t the backwater it was once derided as. All across Europe, there is a growing recognition of the women’s game, demonstrated by Juventus and Real Madrid’s decisions to start women’s teams of their own this season. The summer’s European Championships in the Netherlands also provided an illustration of the strength of women’s football right now.

Contrast United’s stance on women’s football to that of their rivals Manchester City. They have set a new standard in the Women’s Super League, winning the title for the first time in 2016 and finishing second in 2017. City are genuine contenders for the Women’s Champions League, making the semi-finals last season. They’re on course to equal, or better, that this season.

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It should be noted that, at present, Manchester City still make a loss from their women’s team. It costs them around £1 million a season to fund the side, but they still view their participation in the women’s game as beneficial to their overall brand as an organisation. It’s an indicator of a true community interest, along with their £200 million youth academy.

Last August, Manchester United said they were “monitoring the situation” in women’s football, but there has been no movement since. We contacted Manchester United to ask them if they have plans to start a women’s team but so far the club has not responded

New England women’s national team manager Phil Neville has applied pressure for the Old Trafford side to re-launch their women’s football programme. “I will be encouraging them,” said Neville of his former club. “They have a fantastic community programme for female players and coaches. When they do set out their women’s team it will be one to challenge City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool. A club of the size of United should be the leaders, the pioneers. I am sure they are working to do that.”

As things stand, though, there is a sense that they just don’t care. That if money can’t be earned from it, they’re not interested. Man Utd have the money for a YouTube channel, but not a women’s team. That’s not a great look for the club.