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There comes a time when silence is betrayal: Part one

Submitted by on March 25, 2016 – 1:55 pm2 Comments


In the first of a three or four-parter (depends when we can be arsed) 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SFTB is not a writer, by his own admission, and it took him weeks to put together (it is therefore out of date and doesn’t include the latest club shenanighans).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…

Antwerp 3/8/05 to Tamworth 9/1/16

It might have taken 10 years and 6 months to get there, but unfortunately I arrived at the same low point on a Saturday in the pouring rain at Tamworth, after a heated exchange with the general manager, as I did in Antwerp.

Let me explain. After the close season meetings to set up FC United of Manchester in the late Spring early Summer of 2005, I knew my footballing life was about to change forever.
Not wanting to totally give up the Manchester United Football Club (and all its faults) that my family had been supporting since the late 1940s, I joined the Fight From Within (FFW). 

On that barmy summers evening in Antwerp I hit a new low point, as the teams came out, playing at No5 that night was Rio Ferdinand, the person that summed up to me everything that is wrong with modern football. As the players lined up, I had a weird feeling start in my stomach which ended up with me biting my lip and rubbing tears from my eyes.  

I knew instantly what it was, from that moment I knew everything had changed forever, my Manchester United Football Club had been lost. Yes, I was with my mates with whom I had followed Manchester United with all around Europe, most of them knew the takeover was bad for the club, but if I am being totally honest with myself, they were more interested in just the football.

I had never felt so alone in a football ground surrounded by thousands of people, I’d been kidding myself it could be the same but how wrong I was, I walked out of that football ground that night and found a bar, the rest of that night is a blur….
Fast forward 10 years and 6 months…
I had decided to travel by train to an away game, Tamworth, which I’d not done for a quite a while, but felt that after all that had gone on since Benfica, I wanted to enjoy a beer with good mates and an FC win. 

During that week emails and texts were exchanged about a good beer house and I was  really looking forward to an FC match, which is something I hadn’t done for a while as it has been difficult over the last few seasons. 

All went well until we approached the ground, the turnstiles were shut and it was only ‪3.05 pm‬, the problem was with some young lads who the stewards wouldn’t let in.
So I went up to one of the young lads and told him he stood a better chance of getting in if he walked away from the turnstiles. At this point I recognised who these lads were. The same group who’d had the snide Poppy flag at the Chesterfield game (to goad people into having a go at the Poppy, Why???) and singing Ten German Bombers, f***wits. Also, they were the same group who had arranged a meet with Wolves at the Cup game and didn’t turn up, but left it to normal FC fans to deal with their “prearranged” meet. 

As I made my way back to the turnstile another of this group was still trying to get in so I walked him back to where his other mates were, but on the way back I bumped into this little groups “leader” who told me to f*** off. I told him I was FC to which he said “I know, f*** off”. I told him he can f*** off and to dress properly for a football match involving a team with the words United and Manchester in its name.

At this point I didn’t know that this group, FC’s very own EDL supporting pond life, had been chanting EDL or abusing a mixed race lad in a pub. I really cannot believe I’ve just typed that last sentence, but there is a lot that I cannot believe that has happened at this Football Club over the last few years. So I will try and explain where I believe we have lost our way. 
2009/10 Real fireplace/chimney for our Club House. 
Yes it was a potty idea (see original story here) but was very Mancunianly different, but it was tut tutted and belittled then kicked into the long grass even though the proposer was willing to project manage it, as he’d managed multi million pound projects for MCC. 
The falling out between a steering group member at Brighton and the club’s general manager. I won’t go into details but the result was the loss to FC of that much-valued steering committee member. 

You see one of the “problems” with FC in the early days was that we had all come from different parts of Manchester United but all with the same vision, passion, commitment and good old fashion left wing values that lead us to walk away from our first love.

Another “problem” is that we bonded with like-minded people who we wished we had met years ago, if it wasn’t for FC we would never have met. 

Every new board member should read An Undividable Glow, written by that same steering committee member. Don’t worry you won’t understand all of it, nobody does, but it will leave you in no doubt what we gave up. It will make you laugh and cry in equal doses, this book could only ever have be written in the Red part of Manchester.

Beergate 2011/12
Since 2007 CYCM had lovingly run a Club Night in the afternoon, a little part of Manchester at the wrong end of the Tram line. In keeping with the clubs founding principles, CYCM had kept beer prices at the same affordable price of £2 a bottle (or 3 bottles for £5). This all changed when the board [on advice from the General Manager and his self-appointed 'commercial manager' because 'prices have been the same for a while'] decided to raise the price of beer despite a better deal being done with the suppliers.

See Issue 8 of A Fine Lung, where co-owners and volunteers voiced their concerns at the time. A compromise was reached with “It’s Your Shout” prices but the goodwill and trust had been lost, so we lost two more long standing reds. Quite why the board felt that assigning a board member who freely admitted he “didn’t get CYCM” to the Malcs board role was bizarre to say the least. 

Also around the same time, CYCM was blamed for some ‘exaggerated’ damage to the room at Gigg Lane, which was reported to FC. The Malc’s volunteers felt the board weren’t 100% behind them on this issue. Even more goodwill lost.
AGM at the Longfield Suite, Prestwich
There must be something about that room in Prestwich, but its not been one of our most endearing venues. After some probing questions, a board member stuns the meeting with bullying allegations and other personal matters. The result of these allegations on the night, and without any proof of bullying, was the loss of two much-valued board members. The allegations also had the added bonus of demonising the former-programme editor for asking the question that led to the outburst.

What really worried me on that night was the reaction of some of the members in the audience, as they had become judge and jury on these allegations, even though no proof was submitted from the top table, and none that I know of ever has been. Was this a prelude to what was to come at FC?
Where have all the Thinkers & Dreamers gone at FC? 

“Doing Things Differently” was the mantra and although I wasn’t one of those with ideas etc, I certainly support this iconic Mancunian trait. 
Since the Ten Acres Lane announcement and the planning stage of Broadhurst Park, a number of ideas had been discussed with AFL: 
- Ticket Wall of old stubs to show our history with Manchester United. 
- Iconic FC United of Manchester font for the outside of the ground designed by a prominent Barcelona artist.
- A Percy Shelley quote inscribed on one of the goal posts at the away end.

To name but three…
Designers were spoken to by AFL and it could all be paid for by buying the Lung fanzine/t-shirts/hats, etc either at the match, online or the stall in Malcs. All was well until a few years back when the “Dash for Cash” seemed to polarise the board member responsible for the build views on “Doing Things Differently”. No more iconic thinking, the money had to go in the ground general build fund. 

So the love, passion and attention to detail that went into producing AFL was now going to be spent on bog seats and cement for our new ground. Just take a look at our Main Stand Bar for blandness, and the recently erected sign under the St Mary’s Road End, (no matter how well meaning) erected without members’ voting when CYCM volunteers were told all ideas had to be judged by a committee.

AFL went to meeting after meeting, plus sending email after email to put an inscription, that no one would see, on a goal post. Only to be told “no chance” yet the current sign goes up under St Mary’s Road End, no questions asked.

Even more goodwill was lost as a reluctant agreement was reached, whereby the money raised went towards the goal post at Broadhurst Park.  About the same time, some who had contributed to AFL were sacking it as they could see what the club was becoming.

More next week, maybe…