LONDON (AP) –– Manchester United is hoping to break into the U.S. market to cash in on its global appeal.
The record 19-time English champions will open an office on the East Coast to maximize commercial opportunities in the United States, where the club is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The city is yet to be determined but it would replicate the operation set up by the club’s American owners in London that has turned United into one of soccer’s biggest moneymakers.
“The U.S. we view as a really good opportunity,” vice chairman Ed Woodward said Tuesday in the boardroom of the club’s London offices. “There is real value there we believe from media deals, merchandising and sponsorship deals.
“The U.S. media rights for soccer have rocketed. The 2010 World Cup, they were the No. 1 payer for broadcasting rights. It’s rocketed again for 2014 in Brazil and we are expecting the Premier League to have a good outcome there for the (TV) rights given the way it’s taken off from being a niche sport.”
Commercial revenue grew 13.7 percent to a record $188.4 million in 2011-12 thanks to a new uniform sponsor and dozens of regional sponsorship deals in place with companies, mainly in Asia and the Middle East. The club will be touring India and Australia next summer.
Three sponsorship deals have been reached with Japanese firms alone — the latest a soft drink company — since the signing of midfielder Shinji Kagawa in the offseason.
The deals helped the club raise the revenue to cut the debt resulting from the takeover by the Malcolm Glazer family in 2005. The gross debt is now $576 million, Woodward said.
The Glazer family sold 8.3 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in August with the aim of raising around $110 million.
But Woodward said the listing — after a failed attempt to float on the stock exchange in Asia — is not a precursor to the club being sold outright by the Glazers, even though there have been recent approaches.
“It’s a very popular business that people have interest in — the answer is `Not for sale,”‘ Woodward said. “They are not willing sellers at all. They won’t even engage. They are long-term investors.
“The excitement they have in the club is undiminished and I don’t see them selling completely for many, many years.”
The Glazer family also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.