Last night, United of Manchester were crowned Evo-Stik Nothern Premier champions. This moves the 100% fan owned club just two promotions away from the Football League. Over 3,500 supporters of the Rebels gathered at the clubs temporary ground and subsequently invaded the pitch. The rise of FC United of Manchester has been rapid to say the least. In May, the fan owned club will move into a new 5,000 capacity stadium which was entirely funded by the supporters themselves. FC United of Manchester is a breath of fresh air in English football, and a reminder of what is so great about supporting a truly local club. We sat down with Richard Simpson from Reissued (Formerly the Red Issue) to talk about the formation of this new club:
When did you begin Supporting FC United of Manchester?
“I began supporting them from the beginning. It began in 2005, as the Glazer family took over we had this crazy idea to start a club. I never believed it would happen, but when we opened the first round of funding 900 people participated straight away. So it was a major leap of faith to give up something you have been following all your life (Manchester United), as well as jumping into the idea of forming a whole new club.”
Why did you see a need for this club to emerge?
“It was a culmination of things. From 1992 when they made the stadium all seater, we were all furious cause we did not want to sit down. Then the prices started to increase, and the distance between the fans and the club kept growing. Sky, who are able to tell the league what to do, began organizing kick off times on a Friday or Monday night when fans just couldn’t go. So there were a number of different factors before the final straw.
In the early 2000s Manchester United was listed as the most profitable club in the world and with the Glazers, we knew that we would fall into debt, and that the supporters would have to pay for it. So the price of attendance, the price of beers, and the price of food all went up to pay for what the Glazers wouldn’t, because they didn’t have the money. When the deal was finally done it was a straight forward choice. It changed from being a football club to a commercial enterprise.
So I did not leave the club, the club left me.”
What has the experience been so far this season?
This season, until the very end, has not been a typical FC season. Two of our centre backs were signed by Football League clubs, so we drew many of our opening matches. Then, in a game against Barwell on a freezing night in the FA Vase we were down 0-2 at the half. The fans, all 500 of us anyways, all kept singing and we turned the game around 3-2. From there we could not stop winning, and ended going 20 matches without a loss… This is really the first time we have been able to field a team with 16 solid players. So unlike past years we have good players who can come in and do the job.
How did it feel to see them lift the trophy last night?
“Because of our experiences with Manchester United, we know that we can never be too sure until it’s done. Even though we only needed a draw, we all wanted to win. The teams in this league fight their hardest because they are playing FC United of Manchester. So we are like Bayern in Germany, where every team gives 100% when they play against us. When the final whistle blew, about 300 of the 3,500 people in the ground ran onto the pitch… I always thought of myself as a passionate Man United fan, but this is more. Everyone who wants to contribute to our club can, and does. I used to be a chef, and so rather than paying a consultant for the kitchen I designed it myself. It is a far greater involvement and love because I can contribute. At Manchester United all they wanted me to do was consume at the shop, here all they ask is that I sing for 90 minutes.”
I managed to blend in with the camera men best night of my life, broad hurst here we come
Posted by Thomas Oconnor on Tuesday, 21 April 2015
What’s next for FC United of Manchester?
“On May 28th, after 10 years we finally come home. We will be playing in our own grounds that will be a place for the community to live, grow, prosper and benefit. We are going to be opening the stadium in a friendly game against Benfica’s B side.
My father was at Manchester-Benfica European cup final in 1968 and it was the first time we won the European cup. So the fact that they have agreed to it means that is will be an absolute celebration, and somewhere in the middle of that we might play some football.
Next season is a new chapter in the book. Firstly there is the issue of television coverage, so there will be challenges ahead. Luckily we are a democratic club and we vote for our 12 member board. So long as we keep our values of democracy and community things should be very exciting.”
What is the relationship between fan owned clubs in England?
We initially got support from AFC Wimbledon and Supporters Direct who helped us work out the initial ideas, and gave us guidance throughout the process. We have also done the same for teams like Portsmouth. In Germany there is a club called HFC Falke out of Hamburg, and they have sent about 90 people to a couple of matches, where we sing for each other. We just hope that people follow our lead, Newcastle United have been looking at doing something like this…
For more on Supporters' rights check out the video below...