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Manchester United Misses Season Ticket Sales Target, CEO Says

Manchester United failed to meet its target for season ticket sales as the British economy struggled and some disgruntled supporters stayed away in protest of the English Premier League soccer’s club’s ownership.

The 18-time English champion missed its goal by 2,200 tickets, according to Chief Executive Officer David Gill.

“We’ve sold 51,800, which is pretty good in the current climate,” Gill said in an interview after last week’s Champions League draw in Monte Carlo. “We’ve sold more season tickets than the capacity of most Premier League grounds. Our executive seat sales are on track as compared with last year in a different market.”

United, whose Old Trafford stadium seats 76,000, had more than 75,000 people watch its consecutive 3-0 league victories at home over West Ham and Newcastle.

“We’ve got to keep working to make sure that we fill the ground for every game and we’ll do that by playing great football, attractive football, exciting football that brings fans in,” he said.

The club’s 526-million pound ($809 million) bond sale last season prompted protest from fans concerned that its income would be used to finance borrowing rather than on players and ticket prices would be raised by the club’s U.S. owners, the Glazer family. A report out today says U.K. manufacturing growth slowed to the weakest in nine months in August in a sign the economic recovery may be moderating.

The Glazers last month also began paying 16.25 percent interest on a loan they took out to refinance their purchase, company filings show. They’ll pay the rate on more than 200 million pounds of payment-in-kind notes due 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gill said the Glazers’ personal loans, or their domestic finances, wouldn’t impact the team.

“We have put in place a long-term financial structure for the club with the bond, obviously that’s serviced on a regular basis,” he said. “So no I don’t think it impacts us at all. So I think we’ve got to be comfortable.”

He declined to comment when asked about what the club planned to do with about 100 million pounds of cash on its balance sheet. Under the terms of the bond, the owners can access up to 70 million pounds from the club to service their debts.

Manchester United is third in the Premier League after three games.

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