Soccer club's tie to casino 'only issue of concern'

Updated: May 23, 2005, 9:52 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

WASHINGTON -- Under duress from loyal fans of Manchester United, the high-profile Premier League soccer club in which he now has controlling interest, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer is coming under review by the NFL.

Chances are that his NFL peers will look much more favorably on Glazer's pending $1.5 billion purchase of the world's most famous soccer team than have throaty fans of his newest sports entity.

The NFL's finance committee will huddle Tuesday morning, as the league kicks off two days of business meetings, to review Glazer's takeover of Manchester United. One member of the influential group and one owner not on the finance committee both said Monday evening that they see nothing in the NFL rules that will preclude Glazer and his family from completing purchase.

A committee member suggested that about the "only issue of concern" of which Glazer might be questioned is the agreement the soccer franchise currently has with a Las Vegas-based company to build a casino in Manchester. Under NFL rules, owners cannot hold even a minority stake in a casino.

The reclusive Glazer has not said how he might address that issue. In fact, beyond a short statement from his son Joel last week, the family has not publicly discussed its purchase of Manchester United.

Glazer will not be permitted, under NFL rules, to use the Bucs as collateral against any of the loans he will negotiate for the purchase of Man U. But there seems to be no obvious prohibition in the NFL's cross-ownership rules to preclude him from finishing the purchase of the club.

The cross-ownership rules prohibit NFL owners from buying franchises in other major professional sports leagues that are located in NFL markets.

Last week, in a move roundly criticized by soccer patrons, Glazer essentially gained control of Man U by increasing his stake to 75.7 percent of the team stock. By passing the 75 percent threshold, he can now privatize the team and would no longer need approval from other stockholders on business decisions.

Monday night, one owner not on the finance committee repeated a joke that has been often-told in the wake of Glazer's pending takeover of Man U: "Malcolm went to a lot of expense," the owner said, "to fix his kicking situation."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.