They’ve done it! Finally! After a few years of “play-off heart break”, FC United have finally made it to the lofty heights of the Conference North, and only one level away from national football. Surely all football lovers should be rejoicing in the success of a fans owned protest club? Or perhaps not.
FC United have always been a case for great intrigue and championing by the press. 100% of the articles I have read are positive in their unbridled support for the club and what the board there are trying to achieve. One could be forgiven for thinking that FC United are the saviours of the game, the best thing to happen to non-league football, or football in general. A beacon of hope in the current climate of perceived astronomical player wages, and unrealistic ticket prices. So as the “love in” really takes hold driven by FC’s promotion to the Conference North, and imminent move into their own ground, please allow me to put across the case of the opposite view. Views shared by many die-hard supporters of lower league and non-league clubs up and down the country, but rarely given the chance to be aired.

First thing to point out is – I don’t hate Man United. In fact, I have nothing against them whatsoever. There is a school of thought that where a negative perception of FC United does exist, it must stem from a deep-rooted hated of Man United. Maybe there is some justification for such a theory, but this is not the case here. Manchester United have never played my team, never offended my team in anyway, and when it comes to top level football, I generally find myself favouring the team with the most home-grown players – often United since the beginning of the Premier League.
No, the worrying thing for me is what FC United represent for the future of the game. That being a firm step towards the dreaded “B team” scenario, rightly and universally opposed every time this wretched idea is raised. Only this time, in fairness, driven by the fans and not (as proposed by the Dyke-lead FA) for the benefit of the clubs of with the purpose of developing home-grown players. While the FC intentions may be honourable, the end result has the same effect on the existing clubs. Martin Samuels wrote an impassioned piece in the Daily Mail against the B team model proposed by the FA Commission, where he raised the issue (among many other relevant points) of the B team model ‘diluting’ the existing lower league rivalries. I would agree with this wholeheartedly, and take it a step further. The idea of Premier League clubs having supporter owned mini-teams completing in the lower leagues and non-league will not only have the same effect, but it will doubtless lead to the dilution of the existing clubs themselves, never mind the issue of rivalries as raised by Mr Samuels. With the continued success of FC United, where would this end? Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea love affair turns sour – FC Chelsea would only need 1,400 fans watching to become “Woking”. The Manchester City ‘project’ is bound to turn sour at some point (it is City after all…) – FC City of Manchester would only need 1,200 to be “Altrincham”. Newcastle fans are rarely a happy bunch, and aside from the current average crowd being higher at the International Stadium due to a purple patch driven by heavy investment into the playing squad, in reality they would only 400 fans watching to displace “Gateshead”. You get the picture. Liverpool fans have already attempted such a stunt, but fortunately for the existing local clubs the timing was less favourable than on the red side of Manchester, with Hicks and Gillett departing less than a year later and before the project really got off the ground.
In fact, the way in which FC United have claimed to take ownership of the ‘soul’ of Manchester United, moved the ‘soul’ miles up the road into another borough, taken the clubs songs with them, and traded off the same name, it could be claimed with some justification that the similarities lie closer to the dreaded franchise model of MK Dons than that of other fans-clubs, such as AFC Wimbledon (which rose from the ashes of what should still be consider a major blot on the conscious of all involved in English football who stood back and allowed it to happen).
As honourable as the FC intentions claim to be, this is not a model I wish to see replicated in other English cities – non-league football awash with fans owned Premier League team clones.

Which brings me on to the subject of fan ownership in non-league football. FC United are rightly championed for their ownership model and work within the community (leaving aside their new ‘local’ community’s long drawn out and expensive campaign to attempt to block FC United building a football ground on their local park). However, this is not unique or new, in spite of what the press would like to portray. Yes, there are obvious examples of non-league clubs with lofty ambition driven by rich local beneficiaries. The late Rushton & Diamonds are a prime example, there are other “projects” still on-going (for now), Fleetwood and Crawley being the most obvious. However, a casual observer would be wrong to assume this was the norm. Almost every non-league club from the Conference down survives due to the fans. Clubs which would not function without an army of match day volunteers, and fans raising funds within the local community. The local communities being vital to the survival of the local club, the club in turn being vital to the survival of the local community.
This community-driven fan involvement has been on-going for the past 100 years in non-league football, and the lower leagues. Not only the past 10 years since the inception of FC United.
And let’s not forget that among all the anti-SKY songs and banners, and the promise of football at 3pm on a Saturday, this is the club who were more were more than happy to abandon these loosely-held principles the first time they were offered the money to do so by a subscription-only broadcaster. FA Cup: Rochdale vs FC United – Friday 5th November 2010, 7.45pm (ESPN).

The match day experience itself offered at FC United is often portrayed as a glowing beacon of family friendly football. “Making friends not millionaires”. It sounds catchy, but a quick trawl through YouTube rubbishes such a claim. Now I do accept that this isn’t endorsed by the club, is possibly a small number of fans and every club in the country has its less savoury element. However an atmosphere of smoke bombs, pyrotechnics, open drinking on the terraces and idiots invading the pitch every time they score, isn’t the sort of atmosphere that I would want to expose my family to. In fact there is a good reason why all of the above are illegal at all football grounds from the Conference level upwards.
If this is the reality of Premier League fans invading non-league, then it can go back to from where it came.
“But we don’t want to watch Premier League football” will be the cry from the FC United fans. Yes, a fair point. They won’t have to look too far into their own community to find their existing local non-league club, all of which are followed by a proportion of fans who’s primary allegiance lies elsewhere, often in the premier League. “But that won’t mean anything to us as Manchester United fans” will be the retort. Well, hang on, you can’t just invent a B team to support, or a franchise of the original club to run yourself, and not expect a backlash. That is NOT how football should work.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the on-going media love in, was the message of support last week from a certain Russell Brand. The self-styled man of the people and independent thinker, swayed by a combination of the media and the FC United PR output. “I reckon this is the future of football” he tweeted. Bollocks Russell. It will be the death.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I can only chuckle at comparisons between FC United and MK Dons.

    More like MK Dons than AFC Wimbledon? That will be, presumably, the same AFC Wimbledon that have assisted FC United from the start. The same AFC Wimbledon that had representatives at FC United’s initial meetings to provide support and advice. The same AFC Wimbledon that arranged friendlies with FC United. The same AFC Wimbledon that were quoted as giving their congratulations on the back of FC United’s promotions and new ground.

    When it comes to MK Dons, I would have thought that AFC Wimbledon would have a pretty good grasp of all things MK Dons-ish. They’d be in a great position to evaluate if another club was in any way MK Donsy. They’d be of a particular disposition to reject any club that was even slightly MK Donsesque.

    Yet AFC Wimbledon persist with this back-slapping, how-ya-doin, we’re-made-up-for-you, fans-club-together attitude to FC United, which FC United gratefully reciprocate.

    So, to say FC United are like MK Dons? If our friends at Kingsmeadow think not, then I think it is probably the case you are missing the point madly on this one. Little need to comment on the rest of your post. Go and have a bit of a think.

  2. Russell Sprout……sprouting vile and shite. You seriously have no idea of what FC is about. Likening us to MK DONS? Really?

    As for taking the cash at the first opportunity; this decision was taken in lieu of the fact that Rochdale was a local derby and wouldn’t inconvenience supporters. Had we beaten Brighton in th e replay in round two we would have drawn Portsmouth at home. Again ESPN came calling and asking if we did get through could they have it as their Monday night game live on TV. The club politely declined stating that we couldn’t allow it due to the inconvenience it would cause to the travelling support.

    You really need to do a little more research about why we formed and how we go about things.
    I suggest you get yourself up to Broadhurst Park and see for yourself

    Lots of love

    Eddas aged 47 and three quarters

  3. What utter sh*t, we are not a Manchester United B team. Many of our supporters hold affiliation with United as they used to support them or will watch their results, but refuse to pay over 50 quid for a match day experience. Disgruntled United fans could have followed another local team that already existed, but then it wouldn’t be ours. And imagine how you’d feel if your club got invaded by 2,000 fans of another team. In regards to the Rochdale game, it is about half an hour from Manchester, meaning that moving it to a Friday night wasn’t a problem for the fans traveling. If we’d have been playing a team further afield, of course we wouldn’t have played on Friday night. Finally your grumble about it not being a friendly atmosphere as we advertise? Absolute bollocks. Idiots running on the pitch every time we score? Have you ever been? Have you ever spoke to fans in the northern premier that have mostly nothing bad to say about us! This whole article is tripe.

  4. Hello, I read your article with interest, as an FC United fan. There are some interesting arguments in there, but also quite a few errors that need correcting. Please do so.

    1. “this is the club who were more were more than happy to abandon these loosely-held principles the first time they were offered the money to do so by a subscription-only broadcaster. FA Cup: Rochdale vs FC United – Friday 5th November 2010, 7.45pm (ESPN).” There are several issues here. FC United is not against football on TV per se. It’s against matches being moved when it inconveniences fans. The club and membership agreed that moving this *very local* game forward by one day was worth the additional exposure and revenue it would (and did) generate. FC United fans boycotted games against Curzon Ashton in 2008 and Bradford Park Avenue in 2012 due to kick-off times being moved at short notice.

    2. Your ‘B team’ argument doesn’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. FC United are completely independent from MUFC; they are not a feeder club. (I have no doubt that you know this.) FC United play competitive football and in no way dilute the competitiveness of the leagues they play in. FC United have created new rivalries, as well as new friendships (the two not being mutually exclusive) with other clubs.

    3. Local community’s campaign against FC United. This is disingenuous. More residents supported the move to Moston, than objected to it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-21867202 http://www.manchester.gov.uk/egov_downloads/Item_5_Ronald_Johnson_PLayig_Fields.pdf
    I have family in Moston. They were at the opening game with me. They didn’t seem to object to it being there.

    4. “but a quick trawl through YouTube rubbishes such a claim…idiots invading the pitch every time they score” – This is such a laughable comment that it barely merits a response. Pitch invasions rarely happen. Even if they did, how does it contradict the friends/not millionaires stance? The club and its members also continually work to ensure no flares etc. are used. There are times when they are though, no doubt. “open drinking on terraces’ – deary me, how awful. Can’t you make friends with people who like a social drink? Such moralising. Do you judge the entire fanbase and match-day environment by what even you admit to be a small number of fans? Plenty of other families attend FC matches and have a wonderful time. More pity you.

    5. Community club – you’ve omitted to mention a huge aspect of what makes FC United a community club. It’s not simply because supporters are involved in its running. It’s because it’s a democratic, one-member-one-vote organisation. It’s because it’s a non-profit organisation, that invests heavily in projects such as youth work, education in the local community, working with vulnerable people, becoming the first football club to pay the living wage…http://www.fc-utd.co.uk/community.php

    6. “It will be death.” How, exactly? By taking thousands of paying fans to grounds that normally host a few hundred?. Ask the fans and owners of FC’s rivals what they thought of FC paying them a visit.

    I appreciate it’s only a blog post, but you ought to check your facts before posting an article like this. You could always contact the club for more information. You might save yourself the embarrassment of being associated with such specious arguments.

  5. what a load of nonsense…im not even going to comment further…like the guy above said…go and have a bit of a think..

  6. Just a few pointers for you seeing you forgot to do your research, which i find to be poor journalism:

    1. FC United is nowhere near a B club. We dont have united players, united owners, united’s ground. What we have is a club of (mostly) United supporters creating a united that represents what they want from football.

    2. We have more of our own created songs than we do united songs. If you had ben to a game then that would be apparent.

    3. Non-leagu clubs may rely on fans to survive, that is a given. But a very few number of these fans actually MAKE THE DECISIONS and principles that the club has to abide by. FC elect their own board, set their own ticket prices, even set the beer prices!

    4. Saying that AFC Wimbledon should have been stopped is an utter disgrace. MK Dons dont represent Wimbledon, its history, its legacy. It represents what a unqualified, greedy, fatcat owner can do as soon as the money that he wasted runs out. Why should the fans have to travel around the country watching a club that doesnt even play in the same colours?

    5. Finally, if you had done some research before writing this article, then you may have found out that that FC United dont have a problem with being on TV. For the Rochdale game all the fans had a VOTE!!! Whether to be on TV.
    The vote was a resounding yes. It was a friday night against Rochdale. 25-45 minutes away from most FC supporters so wasnt an inconvenience.
    The Brighton game in the next round wanted to be changed to the Sunday, but we voted against because it was inconvienent to the supporters!

    Whether you’re in favour or not, its always nice to get a grasp of the facts first, rather than writing from your armchair like a true plastic fan

  7. I’d have had more respect for you if you’d have just said “you know what, i’m proper envious of those FC Utd lads and ladies”. How you can be critical of what they have have achieved beggars belief.

    ps anybody who starts their comments with “I don’t hate Man United” tends to mean the exact opposite. Just saying.

  8. How are we taking a step closer to b teams we are highly highly against the use of b teams in English football, and the club tried its upmost hardest to move the Friday night game against Rochdale to 3pm on the Saturday however were rejected by the fa on numerous occasions, and I don’t see in any single possibility how we are the “death of the game” if any we are the ones who took a stand against these big corporate teams, or should I say franchises, and quite frankly these are the “death of the game”, they are ripping the heart and soul out of the game we all love which is football.

  9. Dear me Russell, seems like you’re getting a bit of a pasting here! Stick to Twitter or something, you’re clearly not capable of writing an intelligent essay on any subject. The folk above have more than proved how much you’re talking out of your backside.

  10. Hopefully you only do this in your spare time! dont give up your day job. If you were paid for your efforts and investigative ability this would be the end of you….Dunce 1/10

  11. I find that most football people outside of the EPL tend to be supportive of FC United’s ideology. Perhaps this is true of a number of media people given the often favourable coverage especially over recent achievements. The loudest voices against FC and what they stand for always seem to be from the same 3 groups –
    Man United Haters
    The Misinformed
    Retards and Trolls
    Ive yet to meet anyone who ‘gets’ us and despises us. Though I admit I haven’t yet bumped into any of the Glazer clan!
    I would like to ask the author of the blog – and I know you will read this – which category do you fall into ?
    I have my own ideas already

  12. Regarding the Rochdale game, the money from ESPN allowed Rochdale to reduce the ticket prices to £10. Coupled with the fact, as others have stated, that it took about 15 minutes to get there, the decision to allow the game to be televised was done in the interests of the FANS and was endorsed by the FANS.

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