FC United of Manchester’s victory over Stourbridge last night has taken the footballing world by storm, with a swoon of praise now cast over the fan-owned entity once more, as they enter a new era in the Conference North.
The soon-to-be Broadhurst Park club have become renowned for their unwillingness to accept the norm and pedal a different view of football, which includes the importance of fans at the forefront of their football club.
Four promotions in ten years would be a major achievement for any club, at any level, and in any country, which means United must be congratulated accordingly.
It would be remiss however, to shy away from the reasoning behind why this club has come to be. According to FC United’s official club website, it was mainly down to sky-rocketing ticket prices, heavy-handed stewarding and the atmosphere within Old Trafford quickly becoming more and more soulless, leading to a select group of Manchester United fans forming their own club.
The final straw for them was the takeover of the the Old Trafford outfit by Malcolm Glazer. This club are one of a select few who have broken away in this manner.
Despite originally being seen as a club that was simply formed as a rebellious reaction, one would be hard-pressed to find an FC United fan today who would trade what the club has now achieved for sitting down to watch Louis van Gaal’s side this season.
West Ham United’s announcement today that they are reducing ticket prices in line with a major spike in TV money could be a positive sign that just maybe the tide is now turning back towards fan involvement in English football clubs. Whether others follow suit, well we will just have to wait and see.
FC United are more than a just a football club in terms of what they stand for. Whether they like it or not, the more success they gain, the more they will be viewed as an example of the way fans are taking back the game in England.
Some would say a tipping point has been reached, where ordinary fans are being thrust aside in favour of corporate packages and outrageous season ticket prices.
The game has always been on a steady trajectory to appeal to the upper classes, and to a certain extent one can’t blame clubs for wanting to appeal to where the money is, but what it is costing them in return is soulless stadia and a short-term fan base, which may not be so loyal should results plummet.
The fact that Manchester United chiefs recruited a sound engineer a couple of years ago in an attempt to boost the atmosphere shows the farcical levels of raucous support which now actually can afford to attend games.
Last night Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller stood within the German club’s crowd and led the one final chant of the night to celebrate his side’s win.
This is a scene that will never be witnessed at Old Trafford. Like Bayern, FC United are owned by the people with their heart in the right place and not with an eye constantly on the coffers.
Of course football is a business but FC United are proving profit is not the be-all and end-all.
They’re proving there’s another way, one not dominated by stock prices and shirt deals, but one that includes supporters, players and management as one force, which eclipses money and greed, and instead focuses on the ideals of football at its core.
FC United of Manchester belongs to those who matter most, and long may their success continue.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena