Manchester United are facing criticism after they put off paying a £10million tax bill despite being set to fork out £11m in dividends next month to their owners, including £8.5m to the Glazer family.
Small print in United's latest quarterly results reveal the Premier League giants chose to defer their £10m VAT bill to the UK Government for a year.
Yet the dividend, the second £11m windfall for their shareholders over the past 12 months, comes as United announced last week that their net debt had risen by £127.4m to a huge £429.1m. The Glazers will pick up more than £8.5m of the latest dividends.
United have been one of the most exemplary clubs during the coronavirus crisis as they refused to furlough staff, unlike Liverpool and Tottenham, who were forced into embarrassing u-turns after initially putting some of their workers into the Government's scheme.
United have also spent more than £1m on relief efforts to the pandemic in their local area, while they announced last week that the crisis had cost the club £28m so far, with the final figure expected to be much higher.
But this latest move could undo some of that goodwill, as well as infuriate those supporters frustrated with the Glazer ownership, given the taxpayer is due to carry the bill for any interest on money the Government must borrow.
Football finance lecturer Kieran Maguire told The Mail on Sunday: 'I don't think it reflects particularly well on the club because ultimately it means that the Government have to borrow more money on behalf of the taxpayer, who have to pay interest on that to allow the Glazers and other shareholders to be paid £11m.
'There is nothing wrong with it, they have taken advantage of Government schemes, but I think we expect more from football clubs.
'United have got a lot of credit in this crisis. It was fantastic that they committed to paying their part-time staff. Now this is showing the other side. It is disappointing because you expect more from a club of that stature.'
United appreciate how it looks but insist the Government encouraged all VAT-paying companies in the UK to use the deferral scheme, which will see the club pay the sum back a year later, and they believe other clubs are also making use of it. They also believe it is different to the furlough scheme, which passed on the cost to the taxpayer instead of delaying a Government payment, albeit it with possible interest.
The club maintains that the dividends were confirmed in February, and would face legal issues if it went back on them. Future payments are believed to be under review.
United's figures also revealed they had enough cash to spend £3.6m to buy back shares in the company, though were authorised to purchase up to nearly £30m of them.