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Wed 22 Feb 2012 01:00 PM

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United fans try to derail Abu Dhabi’s Man City $158m stadium plans

Local businessman refusing to give up land located within the club’s redevelopment plans

United fans try to derail Abu Dhabi’s Man City $158m stadium plans
A general view of the City of Manchester Stadium the home ground of Manchester City Football Club. (Getty Images)
United fans try to derail Abu Dhabi’s Man City $158m stadium plans
Manchester City and Manchester United at The Etihad stadium in Manchester. (AFP/Getty Images)
United fans try to derail Abu Dhabi’s Man City $158m stadium plans
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. (Getty Images)

Manchester United football fans around the world have grouped together in a bid to try and derail Abu Dhabi’s $158m plans to develop a training complex for rival club Manchester City, which was bought by Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) in 2008.

Businessman and Manchester United fan Shaun O’Brien claims Manchester City Football Club had offered him a “ridiculous” figure to buy his company OB Trucks, which is located within the area where the club’s plans to develop a $158m training complex near its homeground at Etihad Stadium.

In a bid to derail a compulsory purchase order (CPO) issued by Manchester City Council, O’Brien has set up a website selling 18,500 square-foot plots of his land to fellow Manchester United fans around the world.

“Mine and my lawyers understanding of it is, once [the CPO] is rubberstamped by the Secretary of State, they will have to find those people and deal with them on a one-to-one basis… A lot of people who are applying would never sell. They are ardent United fans and if you offered them a million pounds they would never sell,” O’Brien said.

Since going live earlier this month, the website – entitled ‘United Against City’ – O’Brien said he has had strong interest from Manchester United fans eager to buy one of the 18,500 plots, which are priced at 250 pounds ($395) each.

“The response has been amazing... Right across the United States, Australia, Singapore, Korea, Russia, South Africa. Germany seems to be the most popular area. There are 330m United fans around the world… We will use that as a tool in our armoury.”

The website states it is “dedicated to our campaign to prevent Manchester City’s attempts to acquire our land in Eastlands… in order to further their goals of football domination.”

O’Brien said the club had offered him a “ridiculous” figure of 200,000 pounds ($316,000) for his company and when he refused local council authorities issued him with the CPO.

“We believe they should never have had the power to use a CPO. Manchester City is a business, they want this land to further their business so why should I just give them my business? Why should they be able to determine a figure and I just accept it or else? It is not fair,” O’Brien told Arabian Business.

“They offered 200,000 pounds, which is a ridiculous figure, so we hit them with a ridiculous figure of 4.5 million pounds,” he added.

O’Brien said the club’s lawyers had offered a figure of 2.5m pounds before Christmas, but this was subsequently withdrawn and the latest figure offered as been just short of one million pounds, which he has rejected.

With thousands of fans buying up plots, Manchester City and council authorities will be forced to contact each of the new owners and negotiate with them to acquire their plot.

O’Brien has now appealed against the CPO and it will go towards a public inquiry and may need ministerial approval to be implemented.

“It has never really been about the money, it is the way they have dealt with it. It is a big bully scenario, they have a lot of influence and money and they think they can walk over the little man.”

Local Manchester press has reported that O’Brien’s allegiance to Manchester United was the motivation behind his actions, which he has denied.

“They said because I’m a United fan that is why I don’t want them to build what they are building. Because of that article we have suffered hate mail to my family… I don’t want to stop the scheme, I want them to build what they are going to build, I just don’t want to hand them over my property for nothing.”

Once the website has sold at least 5,000 plots, O’Brien said he will go back to the negotiating table. “The 5,000 figure, we think that is a significant amount to cause problems to the CPO,” he said.

While he would not divulge how many plots had been sold he admitted that a meeting has been arranged for next week in order to try and find a solution.

A Manchester City Council spokesman told Arabian Business: "We have made a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO ) for this land. This would not have been necessary if Mr O'Brien had been prepared to sell it at a realistic price and accept the football club's offer of help to relocate his business. The Unite Against City scheme is in no one's best interests except Mr O'Brien's. The valuation he is placing on this land is far in excess of anything in Manchester and would make it equivalent to the most expensive plots in the most exclusive areas of London.

"However, it will not significantly impact on this ambitious regeneration scheme because it was always recognised that there was a possibility a CPO might be necessary and ultimately the government will decide whether to grant the order based on what is in the public interest."


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CiTyBlUe 8 years ago

O'Brien is fighting a losing cause and his is being given very poor advice, Local British Government will over rule O'Brien for hte greater good of Manchester generation.

When they do so and they will mark my words, will O'Brien be refunding all that money he has fleeced from his fellow United fans. If he does not then he will have massive law siuts waged against him, when it comes to the greater good you can not fight it.

SAF 8 years ago

You will also notice from the original story that he could have as many as 18,500 plots to sell - which at 250 quid a plot, means over four and a half million pounds.

More than City were ever going to offer him.

paul 8 years ago

So let me get this perfectly clear."They are ardent United fans and if you offered them a million pounds they would never sell,” I think Mr. O'Brien you are delusional..£1'000000 pounds for a £250 investment? I do believe they would most definately sell and furthermore so would you.

Mick 8 years ago

United supporters are ridiculous.....typical reaction. If they can't have what they want or they cant block something that has no interference in their lives, for the sake of doing it, they whine and complain. Just like their ol pappy, Fergie.
Imagine if Liverpool wanted to build it?

Neil 8 years ago

He ought to concentrate on his own team although he is obviously envious of City at this time.

SAF 8 years ago

Oh come on AB, did you have to edit out my (fair) remarks about you picking up an old story?

pete 8 years ago

So he thinks his land is worth over £4.5 million.
Just hope those buying realize that the cpo will get all those bits for around £50 each.<

Mick 8 years ago

Man United...from ownership to senior management to pitch staff seem to have this sense of entitlement that blurs reality. In their minds, noone is allowed to have the tools they need to compete like a training centre. The FA needs to bow to Sir Fergie and the rest of English football needs to put them on a pedestal and their fans won't allow any competition to "attempt" at cutting them off at the ankles to stop any fair progression.

bren 8 years ago

much needed employment for local mancunians or keeping some freight company wonder who government official will side with

TonyBee 8 years ago

Why try and drag Manchester Utd into this ... It is solely about money...the transport guy can see a pot of gold to be made over selling his land to City and wants as much as he can get,,,fair play to him City and the council should not be able to bully people into getting their own way...

if it was down to Manchester Utd there is no way that any CPO would have been sought or obtained and for you to imply otherwise is wrong