Football Focus Issue 65 - Page 44

FC United of Manchester FOLLOW US ONLINE TWITTER.COM/FOOTYFOCUSMAG But the beauty of supporter ownership is that, unlike disgruntled supporters at, say, Newcastle United or Charlton Athletic, we can change things and the club’s membership signalled their desire for change during the summer by electing a progressive new board that has already taken steps to heal the rifts that have developed amongst sections of the club’s support and has promised to operate with greater openness and transparency. Once again there is a sense of optimism about the club’s future but there is much work to be done. The summer has been one of reorganisation at the club with supporters, once again, embracing the DIY punk spirit that got the club off the ground in a matter of weeks in 2005 with many supporters offering their time, skills and experience for tasks ranging from building a perimeter wall at the ground to getting involved in a range of volunteer-led groups overseeing areas like communications, governance and finance. It’s at times like this when we fully appreciate the wealth of expertise, knowledge and talent that we have amongst our members whether it involves running businesses, counting beans or laying bricks. One of the challenges the club undoubtedly faces in the next few years is to secure its financial stability by making the most of the wonderful facilities that it now possesses; using the spacious function room to host events for the local community, businesses and other 44 Issue 65 organisations and hiring out the superb 3G all-weather pitches adjacent to the ground. A new Chief Executive will shortly be appointed to oversee the club’s development on and off the pitch. On the pitch, after looking out of our depth for a large part of our first season at this higher level, most supporters would probably settle for a comfortable mid-table position again this season. But arguably it will be even tougher than last season with the likes of Salford City, Darlington, FC Halifax Town and Altrincham joining the division. Community work is woven into the fabric of the club with its founding manifesto commitment “to develop strong links with the local community”. The club’s community work covers an impressive range of activities from the Big Coat Day collections of warm clothing for homeless people in Manchester and breakfast clubs and summer youth projects for kids to work with young people not in education, employment or training and support for older people particularly those who live alone. Just a few of the reasons why the club won the Northern Premier League’s inaugural Community Club of the Year award in 2014. More recently the club has begun working with the Sporting Memories Network, recognising the power of people’s memories of sporting events to overcome social isolation, loneliness and depression particularly amongst older people. And FC United were the only organisation in Manchester to participate in a recent charity-run event to distribute cereal to community groups, food banks and local residents to help those who might otherwise not get a decent breakfast. Meanwhile, only a few weeks ago, a theatre production of the FC United story “Conceived in a Curry House”, featuring FC United supporters and local residents, played at the Lowry Theatre and is part of a longstanding relationship between the club and local theatre group Moston Active Drama. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this supporter ownership malarkey is such a new thing. As the film maker Ken Loach said on a recent visit to Broadhurst Park, there is a lot riding on the success of this football club; there are many people beyond Manchester willing us to succeed. No one, not even AFC Wimbledon, has tried to build a football club from scratch whilst being owned and run entirely by its supporters and to a large extent this is a journey into the unknown with few, if any, role models to guide us. No one said that it would be easy and the next few years will possibly be the trickiest so far for this young football club. But the passion of the club’s members and collective desire to get the club back on track this summer has been clear for all to see. It’s full steam ahead, once again, for FC United of Manchester.