Date: 9th July 2015
WHEN news of a break-away Manchester United side broke a decade ago, many dismissed it as reactionary and condemned it to failure.
What they did not realise was that the few hundred fans who had decided that the Glazer empire which was sucking the life out of their club were not alone.
They decided that enough was enough, particularly thanks to the extortionate ticket pricing at Old Trafford, and that instead of giving their money into the Glazer’s already swelling pockets they would set up their own community club.
It turned out that thousands of others felt the same. And so was born FC United of Manchester. Based on the ethos that ‘people and community come first’ and ‘football by the people, for the people’, the club has progressed phenomenally.
Having won the league last year, they are now gearing up for life in the Conference North this season 10 years after their formation. Yes that is still five tiers below their biggest Manchester rivals, but in the space of time that is fantastic progression.
This is particularly impressive as the majority of their funding comes from their members: the fans. They currently have over 4,200 members, with numbers set to continue to rise as the club nears the professional leagues.
Their average attendance last season was 2,145. That is almost as big as some Scottish Premiership teams. This is largely down to their fair ticket prices, a factor embedded in the clubs philosophy, which is also reflected in their ‘pay what you can’ season ticket structure.
They have also just completed construction of a new stadium Broadhurst Park, which has a capacity of 4,200 which could now accommodate all of their members. The stadium was half funded by the clubs members, with the rest coming from a range of investment groups.
This was vital as before the club were ground sharing around Manchester, less than ideal for a club looking to settle and focus on building up their fan base.
They welcomed European giants Benfica for their opening fixture at the stadium, a huge coup and reward for their passionate member’s belief. They lost 1 – 0, but the result was the least important aspect of that day.
FC United believe that everything the club stands for and represents should be controlled by the fans and decided for the benefit of the fans. Their commitment to fan ownership has numerous benefits.
For one, there is a greatly increased sense of ownership, which reinforces the fans love for their club because it is precisely that – theirs. The level of engagement with the club is also greatly enhanced, as the empowerment which comes with fan ownership allows them to feel that they really can make a difference.
This is most notable in the fact that they have 300 volunteers who help with the logistical and financial running of the club. Andy Cheshire, the Community and Education Manager, was present at the European Fans Congress to tell fans from across the continent that if you aren’t happy with how your club is run, you are not powerless. Fans will always have the power over their club, either with their voice or with their wallet.
Andy Cheshire – Community and Education Manager at FC United of Manchester
The club also have community at their heart. They aim to increase community cohesion throughout Manchester, and have links with several other diverse local sports organisations, as well as adult education and volunteering opportunities.
Their ‘Youth United’ and ‘People’s United’ events drew in over 800 young people with these specific aims in mind. Their community work matches that of Manchester United and Manchester City, which given the respective fortunes behind the two giants is simply staggering.
FC United of Manchester are proof that you do not have to settle if you are unhappy with your clubs ownership. Yes, Manchester United are still the biggest club in Manchester, but thousands of Red Devils have decided against giving the Glazers any more of their money.
They have instead decided to support a local team dedicated to including, listening to and giving back to the fans, not just taking money from them.
Their continuing success is a shining example in how to fight back against a powerful owner, and is one that every football fan can and should learn from.
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