After suffering a stroke in April, Malcolm Glazer may not yet be up to attending Manchester United's game at Aston Villa next Saturday. But if he were to make it to
Lerner did not arouse the same sort of antipathy when he took up a majority shareholding at Villa in August, as he was buying out the unpopular Doug Ellis, but some still had their doubts about this second American takeover. Today it is difficult to see how either side could be faring better. While the Premiership is not yet what Glazer might call a done deal, United have opened up a clear lead over their rivals. The club still lack
Ernie Accorsi, who worked with Lerner when his family bought the Cleveland Browns in the NFL and is now general manager of the New York Giants, acquits Lerner of any financial cy
In fact, the Browns have yet to win anything under Lerner's ownership. And, even if Villa's progress is stalled by defeat to United next weekend, Lerner will be more worried about the form of his American football team. This season, the Browns have lost nine of their 13 regular-season games. A day after the game at
However controversial some of his business practices might have been, defenders of Glazer could always point out that he had brought success to the club, with their 2003 Super Bowl victory. This year, however, their record is even worse than that of the Browns and neither side can qualify for the play-offs. Yet while next Sunday's match-up between the Buccaneers and Browns is unlikely to attract much interest among United fans, those who run the NFL now see Glazer and Lerner as significant to its expansion. NFL executives still come over all misty-eyed when they think back to the late 1980s, a period when gridiron reached astonishing levels of popularity in this country.
Whatever profits Lerner and Glazer might contemplate exacting from English football, they may not match those the NFL accrued through UK TV rights and merchandise sales 20 years ago. In 1986, more than 80,000 packed Wembley Stadium to see the reigning Super Bowl champions Chicago Bears play the Dallas Cowboys in the first of the regularly sanctioned pre-season friendlies between NFL teams played outside the
Two decades on, the curiosity surrounding the two American billionaires may offer a chance to re-establish a foothold in the
Moreover, the fixture would be a regular-season game. In October, the NFL's 32 team owners confirmed that, from 2007, as part of their relentless expansion plans, two games a year would be played outside the
Glazer has, for the moment, silenced his critics. Persuading United fans to switch allegiance for a day and travel to Wembley to support the Buccaneers would be a sign that he has finally been welcomed into the fold.
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