FCUM is a community football club owned and democratically run by its members. It was started by disaffected Manchester United fans after the Premier Club was taken over by the Glazer family as a business proposition.
I’m a southerner and a girl, so I don’t fully understand the significance of football in everyday life, but it seems, from stories I’ve been told, that families went two or three times a week, taking their little lads from about six or seven. Footballers were known personally, you probably said hello to them on the street. If they were rude, likely the manager would turn up at your door to apologise.
I got involved through the community share issue a couple of years ago, designed to raise the money for the Club to have their own ground and build their own stadium. The club has raised nearly £6.0m in five years through the share issue, loan stock, grants and inventive fundraising — “a pound for the ground” — much of it from ordinary working people (and people who are not working, generally not through choice) donating small sums of money on a regular basis.
The club has run for several years with three paid members of staff and 300 volunteers. Members are active, highly vocal and engaged. They have plenty to say — about football, about the club and about socialism. The players are part-time, on about £180 a week, and have day jobs as plasterers and in offices. In this time of corrupt bankers, shored up by politicians and scabrous media, FCUM shines like a little beacon, providing hope and inspiration.
Last night I went to the London supporters branch AGM. A crowd of Mancunian exiles, came to London in the 1980s recession looking for work. Mainly men, and all very gallant. Andy Walsh, CEO of the Club was there with the latest news about building the new stadium (first league game to be played there planned for 31 January). Building is four months behind, but will have an historic stand from the Northwich Victoria ground, representing over a hundred years of football history. The cost of the stand to the.Club was the difference between taking it to pieces bit by bit to erect elsewhere, and the cost of demolishing it. About £36,000.
The new ground has to run a test event before opening up to a full capacity game (5,000). Suggestions included a programme of games, maybe fifteen minutes each way — supporters v staff; Club v contractors; women’s team v youth team. Everyone was very excited and hoping the test was on a weekend, so they could get there.
The food arrived and the event descended into disarray as people couldn’t wait for the hot chips, and Andy kept talking and people kept asking questions. One way and another everyone got their chips and the answer to their question.
Chatting to the guy next to me, I found he’d run the Mayfair snooker club for twenty years, just down the road from where I grew up. Previously, the Mayfair had been a cinema, where I’d gone to Saturday morning pictures with my tiny five year old sister and experienced my first D/s frisson watching a nonsense film set in a Hollywood version of the North African desert.
Getting another drink from the bar downstairs, I came back and joined the men standing up (apparently you can’t drink sitting down. Or talk). The conversation was free roaming and before long we were onto democracy and the democratic deficit. Oh, I forgot to mention, earlier than that, Thomas Paine came into the conversation. It was great to hear people talking politics and ideas, taking them for their own.
Chanting and singing are great things in football. They say the crowd, the supporters, is the twelfth player. The excitement and drama at a match when the supporters are in their stride, chanting, shouting, singing, urging the players on, great volumes of noise at every tragedy and triumph. Even for someone like me who doesn’t know the rules of football, or mostly what is going on, can see and feel and hear the energy of the supporters almost propelling the players on the field. There’s a song for every occasion, good, bad and plain boring.
To end our evening, Mickey sang us home with a 13 verse ballad of FC united, beautiful, joyful, unaccompanied singing of the vision of football and songs of tomorrow and yesterday.
You can be part of this.
(from November 2014)
Update: FC United of Manchester are holding the test match in their new ground at Broadhurst Park as I type.