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There comes a time when silence is betrayal: Part three

Submitted by on March 27, 2016 – 11:56 amNo Comment


We are publishing a letter written by long-serving red Stu from the Bay, which was sent to FC United’s rulers. SFTB is not a writer, by his own admission, and it took him weeks to put together (it is therefore out of date and doesn’t include the latest club shenanighans). We feel slight sympathy for those who received it having to trawl through 6,000 words, therefore we are chopping it up in to manageable chunks so none of you dear readers need suffer too much…

It was written in a genuine attempt to list all the things SFTB (and many others) believe the club have got wrong over the years, leading up to the discourse of the past nine months or so. It was done in the hope that the general manager and his board would give their collective heads a shake and think about their behaviour and the negative impact many of their actions have had on the club we all love. It also served as a cathartic exercise for a fan who has put thousands into the club over the years and now feels he no longer can.

It is heartfelt and upsetting in parts, so those with a nervous disposition or close friendship with any of FC United’s leading hierarchy should look away now…

Part one
Part two

Pandora’s Box
If the 50p on the Benfica programme was the key to Pandora’s Box, then the board or general manager certainly didn’t take heed as the lid was about to be blown right off.

Not helped by the complete lack of leadership by the board and GM for what seemed like an age, no communication was forthcoming from the board, it was if they had been gagged or waiting for someone to speak for them, surely not?

And while we had this paralysis from the board, we were treated to no concessions on tickets balls up, ‘Winning Wednesday’ and the ins and outs of a Bala Football’s life from when it woke up to when it went to bed.  Welcome to FC United product placement from our very own non-communicating comms man. We were finally “doing things differently” but certainly not the United way!
So, after pleas by co-owners and members for an emergency meeting to sort the ongoing problems, a bland and quite insulting statement from the board was issued informing co-owners how we could force a meeting (according to IPS rules) knowing full well that would never happen. Welcome to ‘them and us‘.

Finally the board was shamed into a meeting after rumours of an Independent FC United of Manchester Supporters Association was suggested, which a sitting board member wanting to join! “Hello” do you not understand why this group wanted to form?  Shouldn’t they instead be fighting tooth and nail to sort out the meltdown of the club or did it suit the agenda that the then-programme editor was now a scapegoat and was being forced out of the club he loved?

As my previous email to the board after the meeting pointed out, I went into it full of hope that this sorry tale could be put to bed and we could all move on.

Nope, the board seem to want to front up to the membership, not one of the board on that afternoon said sorry. No, that was shamefully left by the rest of the top table, to John England acting Club Secretary, who apologised for something that was actually Walker’s fault.

We were treated to “Wrong time, wrong place, wrong fight,” by one of the board, the club had a “city massive” divide right down the middle, but no one could or wanted to show genuine leadership as the club’s future was at stake.  So the Kangaroo court which was the meeting came and went with the loss to FC of its programme editor, founder member and a long time volunteer. 

I said divided right down the middle, but the club was divided into a few different camps. 

These were:
- Walshworship
They won’t have anything said against the GM or the board and shout “stand for the board if you don’t like it”, spectacularly missing the point about a democratic football Club that we tend to (always) champion to our detractors. 
- The ‘Don’t Care about Politics it has no place at FC‘ 
Probably don’t vote at the AGM (worrying) and only come for the football (which is fine by me). But this group tends to blame the Left and Right of the club for all its faults.

A month or so back a well-respected ex Red Issue writer put a parody of the club under “Where do you Stand” thread on the Soul is One Forum.

The author of the thread made reference to the Left, Right and Centre and basically blamed right and left as equally being as bad as each other, leave those in the centre to get on with supporting the club as it should be. One massive fault with this parody (it was a dig as I saw it), it demonized the left yet again, who actually agree with every one of our core principles, not like the new/old bigoted right of the club who now see their chance to make an influence.

- ‘Trouble Makers’ ‘Malcs Lot’ ‘Left Wing lot’ (Depending on who you speak to)
For trying to stick to FC’s core principles and hold to account the GM and club board by asking probing questions. Why it’s deemed that asking questions of a democratic football club is somehow seen as trouble making and s**t stirring is bizarre.
‘Love United hate Politics’
As one of the most depressing flags to have ever to be hung up at an FC United game proclaimed, it ironically made a political statement in itself.

Recently there seems to be a concerted underhand push to either discredit or distance anyone who might hold a left of centre view on life. This stance has unfortunately attracted a rise in an ugly right wing element who tend to thrive when the no politics at football becomes the mantra.

I would class myself as an easy going, fair and open minded decent human being, I don’t discriminate against anyone and treat others how I like to be treated myself, if this makes me a left wing troublemaker, well I’m guilty as charged!!

Just a reminder what we stand for…
The Board will be democratically elected by its members. 
Decisions taken by the membership will be decided on a one member, one vote basis. 
The club will develop strong links with the local community and strive to be accessible to all, discriminating against none.
The club will endeavour to make admission prices as affordable as possible, to as wide a constituency as possible. 
The club will encourage young, local participation – playing and supporting – whenever possible. 
The Board will strive wherever possible to avoid outright commercialism. 
The club will remain a non-profit organisation.
I 100% support every one of our seven core principles, and I have highlighted them above because I would love to have an answer off our newer EDL supporting youth with regards to the principles, or for that matter some of our support that have been coming for years. (see Rainbow Laces).

I would also like to ask the board how the “to be accessible to all, discriminating against none ” core principle is being adhered to when they are fully aware that a member and co-owner is repeatedly being bullied (complaints have been made many times via the correct channels).

I can’t help think that since the last CYCM at Gigg Lane, this nasty bigoted part of our support has found its voice.  CYCM stood by all seven core principles, it was an antidote to the poisonous bigotry creeping into our club.

Poppy Police
First let me point out one or two facts about myself re the Poppy, I have up to a few years back bought a Poppy to wear to show respect, but recently I’ve bought a Poppy and kept it in my pocket. It really annoys me that I am made to feel like I have to wear one otherwise its disrespectful. The lionizing of our armed forces in general is worrying. 

My Granddad was shot and injured in the First World War, plus my Brother in law has just retired from the RAF after nearly 25 years of service, so this is not a rant at the armed forces. 
At FC, up to now, we have not gone down this route and treated Remembrance Day with the respect it deserves. But I get a feeling from a few of our support that if every November we were to put a big fuck off Poppy where the club badge is going to be, this would now be acceptable!

I was really impressed with United and Liverpool when they refused to have a Poppy on their shirts a few years back. It should always be down to the individual and not forced upon people.

I mentioned earlier that I was asked to sign a petition against the match day programme for printing an article on the Poppy from a co-owner in the programmes “Big Mouth Strikes Again“ page.
Well, the same snide comments continued in the lead up to this year’s Remembrance Day and the Chesterfield first half boycott. Why an ex board member felt the need to tell the boycotters (via The Soul is One Forum) that “He hoped the boycotters would respect the minutes silence”, why wouldn’t we?  Why did he feel the need to mention this?  Unless it fitted his narrative to try and demonise a section of FC support.

As it turned out, the minutes silence was impeccably observed by ALL the boycotters and why wouldn’t it be?

On entering the ground in the second half, I had to endure the singing of the ‘Ten German Bombers’ song by the EDL youth we have attracted. They had also made a colour crayoned Poppy flag on a bed sheet, which they kept holding up to provoke a response from FC fans, having a poppy flag wasn’t the problem, the songs they sang were.  In my opinion their approach to the Poppy was more disrespectful than anything I’ve ever seen at FC. Thankfully their little show was shouted down by the vast majority of FC fans on the St Mary’s Road End that night.

Rebecca Joy Sharp, a typical CYCM turn

Rebecca Joy Sharp, a typical CYCM turn

Two St Mary’s Road End Bars, but the Soul isn’t one. 
Summer of 2014 saw two proposals (see member’s docs) sent into the board on how on match days this space could be best used.  Both seem to mirror what happened on a match day at Gigg Lane. One from CYCM (on which I’m named) and the other from Mike Burtonwood and Vinny Thomson (who helped with the Mainstand Inn at Gigg Lane etc). I won’t insult your intelligence as to where my loyalties lie. 

The board informed both parties that they wanted to work with both groups and as the build was now running behind they would come back to us both.  Meetings were held with board member Adam Brown about holding a Malcs in the ground, but certain procedures had to be followed, i.e. food hygiene, sound proofing, FC staff running bars etc. 

This seemed to put a bit of a dampener on the volunteers who attended those meetings, as part of the ethos behind Malcs was a volunteer run event, where the Punk “do it yourself” approach worked so well at Gigg Lane. We are now being told we could not make our own food which a lot of us had done for years, plus without an entertainments licence and sound proofing, we could not put bands etc on. It was alluded to us that only paid FC staff could serve food and drink.

Really depressing stuff from our own club board, but the board would come back to us when they knew what we had to work with when the ground opened, a slight glimmer of hope (we thought).  So on the strength of what the board was telling us, Malcs volunteers put the CYCM resolution into the AGM that year. (see above). 
As the build got further and further behind there was no chance that CYCM would be in the ground before the Benfica friendly.
So it was a bit of a disappointing to be told, while being taken on the Crowdfunder ground tour the night before the test event, when I asked Andy Walsh and board member Phil Sheeran where will the other bars be, to be told that that the only place in the ground with an alcohol licence was the main club bar.  So it was a bit of a surprise (and bonus) to be told that a bottle bar will be in operation under the St Mary’s Road End for the Benfica game.

Oh well, it’s probably a last minute thing so not too big a problem, and I did enjoy the bare arseness of it on the night even though I couldn’t get served.

So the new season started with “Vinny’s Bar” as it was effectively becoming known, it was now plotting up at most home games with different bits of furniture etc being sourced to make it more comfortable for a pre-match drink.  Plus the asking of any volunteers to help run it, why no FC paid staff? 

Okay so it was still a glorified bottle bar trying to make some money for the club, so why be churlish and moan? Well we are a democratic football club where the CYCM group that wanted to run an event under the St Mary’s Road End did not get a look in, even after putting it to a vote at the 2014 AGM, which the board hijacked with their ‘remit to board’ and still haven’t done anything about it. 
Then another kick in the teeth came at the recent home game over Christmas, I was standing on the St Mary’s Road End terrace in the second half when I thought I heard a drum from the away fans, only to be told “no that’s the music coming from below our feet”! The Malcs volunteers were told we could not have music due to no sound proofing or entertainments licence, and that we don’t want to upset the locals with loud music at that end of the ground.  But here we are with loud music coming from below!

This was compounded even further by Vinny and Des asking one of Malcs match going volunteers to DJ under the St Mary’s Road End.

It was if a fait accompli had been achieved by Vinny’s group and without even a remit to board or members/co-owners vote. 

Would our membership be so understanding if CYCM had ran a ‘club night in the afternoon’ type event without any consultation with Vinny’s group if they had put their proposal to an AGM vote? I don’t think so.

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