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Former Manchester United takeover bidder makes proposal to Sir Jim Ratcliffe

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In a recent development in the football world, Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus has expressed his eagerness to engage in discussions with Sir Jim Ratcliffe regarding enhancing the fan experience at Old Trafford, alongside the potential for significant financial benefits for the club. Zilliacus, known for his previous attempt to acquire Manchester United, has shifted his focus to the Italian football scene, having placed a £1.2 billion bid to take full ownership of Inter Milan. This move is supported by his investment firm, which includes a fresh roster of business leaders not involved in the United bid, with a substantial portion of the investors based in the United States.

Despite his current focus on Inter Milan, Zilliacus remains interested in the Premier League, particularly in sharing his innovative fan platform concept with Ratcliffe. This idea was a key component of his unsuccessful bid for Manchester United. Ratcliffe’s recent £1.3 billion investment in Manchester United has been approved by the Premier League, granting him control over the sporting aspects of the club, while the Glazers continue to manage its commercial operations. Zilliacus believes his fan engagement proposal could significantly contribute to the commercial side of the club.

Zilliacus, who previously served as a high-ranking official at Nokia and was the chairman of Finnish football club HJK Helsinki from 1982 to 1986, has devised an app that aims to empower fans by giving them a voice in club decisions, in exchange for a fee. Although this would not extend to decisions on managerial changes, it would allow fans to influence the club’s transfer strategy and financial distributions.

The entrepreneur, aged 67, highlighted that this model has been successfully implemented at an Italian club, though he did not disclose the name. In one instance, the scheme generated $400 per participant, attracting the participation of five percent of the fanbase. Zilliacus is confident in the potential of his model to enhance fan engagement and generate additional revenue for football clubs.

He says he would be keen to talk about these proposals with Ratcliffe and his team amid revamp plans for Old Trafford. “I welcome very much the fact that Jim Ratcliffe is running the footballing side because he’s a passionate Manchester United fan and knows football,” he told MEN Sport.

“So what I would love to do is to talk with him and his team about the fan monetisation platform that we would have deployed if we would have been able to take over the club. It is a platform that can generate very significant revenues for Manchester United.

“And I would be more than happy to discuss the possibility of working together in order to generate those funds. I know we could structure something very exciting for the global fan base that would generate very significant revenues for the club.”

Speaking about the fan-led model itself, Zilliacus added: “It was actually a Swedish concept that I acquired a few years back. The best monetary returns was actually with a top Italian club, one of those in the Champions League. So it has been tested.

“We have run this with other top clubs and we have made over 400 US dollars per participating fan. So of course, not every single fan is participating… about five per cent of the fan base participated when we tested it with other clubs.

“So if Manchester United has around a billion fans, as has been claimed, five per cent of that is 50 million times 400 US dollars. That’s a hell of a lot of money.”

Zilliacus remarked that generating $20 billion from a $400 contribution from 50 million participants would represent an enormous sum. After opting out of the third phase of the bidding process for United in April, skepticism surrounded Zilliacus’s financial capabilities, casting doubts on his potential as a viable purchaser of the club.

Yet, Zilliacus expressed no regret over not securing the United takeover, especially since the Glazers shifted their focus to seeking minority investments. He views Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s involvement with the club favorably.

He further noted, “I find it extremely encouraging. Given his extensive business commitments, the considerable amount of time he dedicates to the club is impressive and undoubtedly beneficial for the club.”

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