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Community Ownership week – FC United of Manchester

FC United

Although they have only been in existence since 2005, FC United of Manchester’s origins stretch back to the early 1990’s, and specifically to the creation of the Premier League. Despite the fact that Manchester United were enjoying one of the most sustained periods of success in their history, a number of supporters felt that an undeniable disconnect between clubs and their local communities had emerged.

As one of the game’s leading institutions both on and off the pitch, United attracted attention from a host of potential investors, including BskyB mogul Rupert Murdoch. His bid was accepted by the club board in 1998, but blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1999, with fierce supporter protest a backdrop to the affair.

Four years later, the Glazer family purchased their first shares in the club, and steadily increased their holdings until the club was delisted from the London Stock Exchange on June 22nd 2005. The form of takeover was a leveraged buyout, which essentially saw the club acquired with debt, that was secured against the club itself.

For some supporters, this was the final straw. Vociferous lobbying of the relevant authorities had yielded no positive outcomes, and so it came to pass that “the idea of a new club was proposed, one dedicated to flying the anti-Glazer flag, but also one that would campaign on the positive agenda and wider demand that fans and the local communities should be central to every football club as a counterweight to the rapacious drive for success and personal gain.” FC United of Manchester was born on June 14th 2005, and on July 5th, supporters voted to structure the club as a co-operative Industrial and Provident Society.

The club was founded with supporter ownership and a democratic, co-operative structure as the two touchstones. Members receive equal voting rights regardless of donation sizes; all fundamental decisions are put to a member vote, and the club board is democratically elected and fully accountable.

The collective spirit of the club was highlighted in the summer of 2009, when the board proposed that instead of putting the issue of season ticket prices to a member vote, supporters be allowed to pay whatever they could afford. The average price paid increased in comparison with previous years. 2009 also saw the club awarded a Cooperative Excellence Award by Cooperatives UK, in recognition of their extensive community work, undertaken by three full-time staff and over 300 volunteers. The club has also launched a Community Shares scheme, backed by Coops UK and intended to finance the development of a stadium and community facilities at Ten Acres Lane.

On the pitch, FCUM have risen from the North West Counties Football League to the Northern Premier League, winning three promotions in five seasons. The club’s average attendance is several times the league average, and FCUM supporters have become famous for their positive, inclusive attitude towards the game – much like the club itself.

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