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Mirror, Mirror on the (newspaper) stall

Submitted by on February 28, 2014 – 11:05 amNo Comment

Don'tSellIt

This article is in the Daily Mirror today. It is not the best (Man U?), but it is obviously great for FC United to receive national coverage:

When a group of disillusioned Manchester football fans decided to set up their own community team they knew they would be starting at the very bottom.

But now, nine years on, FC United of Manchester have 1,800 supporters and growing and are making their mark in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.

The community-­owned club has a new £5million football stadium in the pipeline and is doing incredible things for local people.

“FC United came about when a number of Man U fans wanted to find a positive way of responding to what they saw as a disastrous takeover by the American Glazer family,” explains Robin Pye, FC United’s community and education manager.

“They no longer wanted to contribute money as fans when there was so much debt saddled on the club.”

So, the group began to set up a different kind of football club, owned by fans and that would be more responsive to the needs of the community.

“The aim was to create a sustainable club for the long term,” says Robin, 50. “One that was owned and democratically run by its members and that all the communities of Manchester could participate in.

“As a new club we had to start at the very bottom but we captured the imagination of a lot of people. It started off with a whip­-round and we played our first matches against tiny clubs.

“Our success is really based on the fact a lot of people got involved and the venture is based on trust.”

Indeed when the credit crunch hit in 2007, FC United knew that their members could be struggling to justify coming to see matches. So instead of setting a price for season tickets that year they asked people to pay what they could afford.

“As it happens the average amount of money per ticket went up,” Robin reveals. “It just shows how the club floats on trust and goodwill.”

Green and gold protest: Man Utd fans protest against the Glazers in 2010
And the benevolence also extends to the wider community with FC United’s community projects. These include helping the unemployed, assisting children with homework, sports coach training and encouraging young people to take on voluntary roles such as befriending the elderly.

“We said from the off that we want to benefit the community, that there was a lot of scope to work with young people. Now we try and raise young people’s aspirations and give them experiences which help them realise they have skills which they previously didn’t believe they had.

“We train them to be sports coaches and to help us to deliver placements for younger children, to work as part of team and take responsibility.

“We work with unemployed people linking them to projects in the community where they can instantly see the impact they’re having on the other person’s life.

“When they feel good about themselves we think that gives them resilience to cope with things like unemployment.”

Since it’s birth FC United have been playing at Gigg Lane, a ground rented from Bury FC but last year work began on a new 5,000 capacity stadium in Lightbowne Road, Moston, largely paid for by a community shares scheme.

Other funds were raised via classic fundraising and the club also received a grant of £918,000 from the National Lottery funded Sport England.

With the stadium set to open in August this year, FC United are excited about the future.

“The thing about our club is that everyone is welcome and included in our community,” adds Robin. “Ordinary people have setbacks in life and inclusion is important for us. Many people in Manchester can’t afford to go to watch big clubs but everyone can afford to come and see us.”

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