Man United LGBT supporters group Rainbow Devils at Manchester Pride

Manchester United takeover bid: LGBTQ+ supporters group say debate has been “incredibly divisive”

The Qatari bid for Manchester United has stoked division among fans and led to a dramatic increase of homophobic abuse from home and abroad, Manchester United’s LGBTQ+ supporters group have said.  

Rainbow Devils, created in 2019 to empower and celebrate LGBTQ+ United supporters, released a statement on Friday expressing “deep concern over some of the bids that are being made”.

But response to their statement has included significant amounts of homophobic abuse, both of the group and individual members. 

Rainbow Devils member Sam Danson, 29, said: “Talk of the takeover bid has been incredibly divisive and our statement in response has stoked people up. 

“Our concerns are in relation to inclusivity for LGBTQ+ people – not just in Manchester but across the world. 

“We’ve got such a diverse fan group and we represent so many people that the idea of having owners that don’t even remotely support those people – especially if they’re deemed criminals in their own country – is a failure for the club.”

Much of the abuse the group has received has come from Twitter accounts with Qatar flags on their profiles, but some has been from apparently local fans, too, he said. 

“Some of it’s just been general vile homophobia, others have been more: ‘it’s not even about football, why are you trying to bring politics into it, your life will be fine, stop moaning’. 

“It just feels very toxic and negative – it’s unfortunate because we’re not claiming our lives will be changed or we’ll be executed, but we’re trying to maintain a club that we feel represents and can represent every supporter.”

Danson said whilst Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani’s statement announcing his bid for the club sounds promising in theory, his potential ownership could ultimately lead to the kind of sportswashing seen at other European clubs with similar ownership. 

He added: “We live in a country where we have the right to challenge things. 

“I think that should be celebrated and shouldn’t be ridiculed or abused – we have very valid concerns and we have a right to discuss those and put them to any potential owner. 

“It’s naïve to suggest you can completely keep politics out of football because of how diverse the fans are: the origin of football is grassroots and about a connection between fans and the club, and to claim it’s purely about signing Mbappé next year and having a new training ground – nothing to do with the fans – is wrong.”

The Glazer family – who are deeply unpopular among fans – put United up for sale in November and two confirmed bids have been made since then: from bin Hamad al-Thani and INEOS founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Despite this, club legend Gary Neville yesterday tweeted he has doubts the Glazers will sell the club at all, as they announced an increase in ticket prices for next season.

Photo: Rainbow Devils

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