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Under fire FC United boss to quit after fan unrest

Submitted by on March 23, 2016 – 11:04 amNo Comment

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Amidst growing supporter unrest, FC United’s chief executive has announced he will be leaving the club after this season.

Andy Walsh, who has led the club since its inception in 2005, has come under fire from the club’s fans following a series of unpopular decisions and mishaps he has presided over as the general manager in the past year.

Walsh this week announced to club members that he plans to leave in June but will ‘remain actively involved’ in the organisation he has served for 11 years.

Following a host of contentious issues at the supporter-owned club, fans, former board members and FC United’s original instigator have all called for Walsh to step down in recent months.

Former driving instructor Walsh, believed to earn £40,000 a year at FC [though the club has not told members what staff are paid], was hailed by the board in his resignation statement for ‘delivering’ the club’s Broadhurst Park home, but many fans had become frustrated at long delays and budgeting problems that plagued the build.

He has also been accused of creating a ‘jobs for the boys’ culture after he employed several former Militant comrades.

One of those, Middlesbrough fan and Supporters Direct board member Andy Walker, has contributed to deep divisions in the fanbase over his conduct and performance as a contracted fundraiser and voluntary press officer.

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A founder member of the club explained: “Back in May FC United played a friendly against Benfica to mark the opening of their magnificent new ground at Broadhurst Park. Below the surface there were rumblings of discontent even then.

“Walsh emailed the membership in October 2014 claiming that completion was just ‘weeks away’; handover didn’t occur until mid-June last year– on top of hugely increased costs.

“Walsh authorised a revamped commemorative programme [for Benfica] for which the club could impose an increased charge.
“This inevitably caused consternation, with the programme editor himself voicing opposition that kick-started a chain of events still rumbling on now.

“This insubordination saw him carpeted by Walsh and, following a public naming and shaming in a statement on the matter by the club Board, the editor felt bullied into resigning his post. This left many members deeply uncomfortable: not only did the price increase appear to breach one of the club’s founding principles, the club management’s decision to stop selling concessionary tickets for the Benfica game also appeared to breach another [following a mistake by Walker]. Members demanding explanations were slapped down.

“The club tweeted pictures of staff at a swish corporate shindig at which Walsh was nominated for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ on account of Broadhurst Park. But what really grated about that amongst those who’d chosen to boycott Old Trafford on principle was that Walsh was cavorting with the same type of venture capitalists as the Glazers.

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“In October four club officials [including Walsh and Walker] posed preening on the Broadhurst pitch with Treasury minister Damian Hinds during the Tory conference, breaching their own recently introduced rule about not allowing politicians to use the club for party political promotion. This outraged many supporters who had just days before marched in protest against Hinds’ government’s cuts.

“The club’s founder – the person who in 2005 wrote the FC blueprint and coordinated the small group which got FC up and running within weeks – constructed over 30 different resolutions and votes to put to members at the AGM, aimed at improving the club’s governance and re-uniting it with its original ethos. However, upon trying to renew his membership to submit the motions the Board blocked him due to what they called ‘untested’ allegations [following his membership being ‘referred’ to them by Walsh].” [for full article visit: fcum.info]

Jonathan Allsop, another FC United member, added: “The latest flabbergasting blunder-bolt in a season full of them was the revelation that in December FC United’s Board voted to conduct an independent investigation into ‘abuse’ that Board members, staff and volunteers were allegedly receiving on internet discussion forums and social media.

“Dave Boyle, the former chief executive of Supporters Direct and a friend of General Manager Andy Walsh and longstanding Board member Adam Brown, was apparently offered £900 to take on the role of Witchfinder General. NINE HUNDRED BLOODY POUNDS of co-owners’ money. This is a man who had apparently already taken a look at the supporters’ internet forum and remarked that he felt like he ‘needed a bath’ afterwards. So much for casting an “independent” eye there then.

“Without a hint of irony, one of the leading lights of the supporter ownership movement was offered a hefty sum of a supporter-owned football club’s money to snoop on the internet activity of co-owners of that very football club, once the poster boys and girls of the supporter ownership movement. This is the very same Dave Boyle who, minutes after AFC Wimbledon were promoted to the football league in 2011, infamously tweeted offensive and obscene remarks [for which he lost his job].

“Through all of this the thing that most rankles with me is not so much that cock-ups have been made, no one ever said that owning and running our own football club would be easy, but that the Board and General Manager have, at times, completely lacked any sense of humility and the ability to just hold up their hands and say ‘sorry’.” [for full article click here]

It is not clear what Walsh’s continued position at the club will be. In his statement he said: “Over the past ten years I have been closely involved in building the club, its structures and influence and I very much want to continue that in a different capacity. I have enjoyed working closely with the club’s board, staff and volunteers and I believe that I still have something valuable to contribute.

“As the club moves into a new era in its own ground with an expanding community profile, the future looks bright for FC United and I’m looking forward to playing a role in that successful future.”

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A collective statement from the FC United board said: “The FC United Board would like to thank Andy for the tireless work and dedication that he has shown to the club since its inception. It is no exaggeration to say that without his leadership and management skills the club would not be in the enviable position that it is today in fantastic facilities that will allow it to continue to grow for the benefit of members, supporters and the wider communities of Greater Manchester.”

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