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What we've achieved is pioneering, unique and phenomenal - January 2015

Posted by Andy Walsh, FC United General Manager on Thursday 8 January 2015
Football commentators in the media continue to make patronising comments about football fans. While some of the recent coverage around supporter-owned AFC Wimbledon’s FA Cup tie with Liverpool was balanced and accurate, much of it was ill-informed and crass. With some notable exceptions, too few take serious note of the issues of concern on the terrace and in the stands. Ex-players in commentary boxes are worse than their colleagues in the media but with AFC Wimbledon deservedly in the full glare of the media spotlight this week, the days of the media ignoring fans are surely coming to an end. Thanks to AFC Wimbledon, Exeter City, Portsmouth and Swansea’s Swans Trust, fans are beginning to gain a meaningful stake and in a growing number of clubs. This toe-hold is now more of a foothold. As the General Election looms, the major political parties seek to curry favour with the ’fan vote’ but this year there is a distinct sense that fans are more savvy, we are certainly better organised and we have more experience.

In non-league the number of clubs democratically owned by fans is growing. Fan ownership and control of clubs often springs out of adversity; Hereford will hopefully soon join the likes of Chester, Wrexham, Scarborough, Merthyr etc. What often drives clubs to the bankruptcy courts is a lack of cash. A desire for extra funds also tends to drive supporters and their hopes into the arms of an outside investor who may change the club’s identity or even threaten the very existence of the club. Many supporters see no alternative. At FC United we are not only building a governance structure that aims to be responsive to fans concerns, but we are also working hard to create suitable vehicles for raising serious amounts of funds for the club too.

With our new ground finally taking shape and the erection of the St Mary’s Road stand, I was thinking about how far we have come as a club and what we have achieved so far. It may just be a new year thing or the fact that we are closing in on what has been for many of us the realisation of a dream - a home we can call our own - but it feels like the time is right to consider where we are now, where we are headed and also how we have got here.

First up, we need to recognise and celebrate our achievement. At this time of the year we are often reminded of Alan Gowling’s famous phrase talking about FC United, "It’ll all be over by Christmas". Alan has acknowledged himself that he was wrong about that prediction, but there were many people in and around football who thought that we wouldn’t last the course. That we have not only lasted, but thrived and started to make a real difference to football and the wider world beyond it, is testament to the determination and resilience of our members and those who have backed us over the past ten years.

It’s easy to take all that hard work for granted but what we have achieved in establishing a successful community-focused and supporter-owned club that has planned, financed, built and is on the verge of moving in to its own ground and community facility is a phenomenal achievement. Every person involved in the development of our club should be proud of what we have achieved collectively. Our success so far is rightly seen as a beacon to be followed by others in football, sport and community development. The money we have raised alone is vindication of how correct we were to set up FC United as an alternative to modern football but crucially it is the fan ownership aspect - ordinary football supporters doing extraordinary things - that has made the difference and got us to where we are today. That example has inspired others as AFC Wimbledon inspired us back in 2005.

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing along the way. We have faced big challenges and had to overcome opposition to what we are doing. We had to find a new site for our ground when Ten Acres Lane fell through. We had to redouble our efforts to raise even more finances when the costs of building the ground increased. We have dealt with a Judicial Review and contaminated land issues. The extension of timetable and the increased cost have tested our relationships with external funders but we have prevailed because of the strength of our ownership model and a ’united faith’ in the power of fans like us. We have had a few fall-outs amongst ourselves along the way too, but that is inevitable because what we are doing has never been done before. We have been sailing in unchartered waters and as a result we have sometimes gone off course a bit. Not deliberately, but because all this is new and we are still less that ten years old. I said at the recent FC United AGM "show me a ten-year-old that doesn’t squabble". We are no different. It is natural for there to be disagreement and strong debate, our members hold strong views and we must encourage that at FC. But what we always need to ensure is that we remember to stay united. We can have the sharpest debates and discussions but these should never descend into acrimony or personal insults. Disagreement and debate needs to be disciplined and sometimes as individuals we have to accept that we will not agree on everything.

We are doing pioneering work that has not been undertaken by any organisation like ours before. We will make mistakes, but we should aim to learn from those mistakes and come back stronger for the experience. People look at our club and marvel at what we have achieved so far. We should all be tremendously proud that we have been able to empower ordinary people who have gone on to achieve extraordinary things. We are regularly contacted by other clubs and community groups thanking us for the inspiration we have given them. We have something special here that other organisations would dearly love to have and as we prepare to take the next step into our new home in Moston and a home of our own, we need to treasure and nurture our club.

And remember, all our achievements to date have been made without a strong, permanent base to call home. Just imagine what we can achieve when we finally take residence at Broadhurst Park.

Hasta La Victoria Siempre!



We're inching ever closer to Broadhurst Park - February update

Posted by Andy Walsh, FC United General Manager on Tuesday 24 February 2015

I wanted to begin this month’s update with some good news about the new roles we have appointed at the club as a direct result of the new ground and our imminent move to Broadhurst Park. Click here to read the full article.

What we've achieved is pioneering, unique and phenomenal - January 2015

Posted by Andy Walsh, FC United General Manager on Thursday 8 January 2015

Football commentators in the media continue to make patronising comments about football fans. Click here to read the full article.

Broadhurst Park Update - November 2014

Posted by Andy Walsh, FC United General Manager on Wednesday 12 November 2014

The highlight of the past month on site has undoubtedly been the sight of the St Mary’s Road End stand being erected. Click here to read the full article.

Broadhurst Park update, October 2014

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager, FC United of Manchester on Monday 20 October 2014

Welcome to the October blog update. Click here to read the full article.

Broadhurst Park update, September 2014

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager, FC United of Manchester on Monday 15 September 2014

Welcome to the September blog update. Click here to read the full article.

Broadhurst Park Progress August 2014

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager FC United of Manchester on Thursday 14 August 2014

Here is the August blog update on the build progress at Broadhurst Park. Click here to read the full article.

Progress Update - July 2014

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager FC United of Manchester on Thursday 7 August 2014

Firstly, an apology for not updating the blog as regularly as we’d planned. Click here to read the full article.

Steel is on site

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager FC United of Manchester on Wednesday 19 February 2014

We are now a quarter of the way through our building programme in Moston. Click here to read the full article.

Site - all wrapped up for Christmas

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager FC United of Manchester on Monday 23 December 2013

Ground

Well it could not last until Christmas could it? The weather has been considerably wetter this last couple of weeks and whilst we continue to make good progress on the site things have slowed down a little. Click here to read the full article.

Week Four on Site

Posted by Andy Walsh, General Manager FC United of Manchester on Wednesday 4 December 2013

The initial groundworks are continuing on site and the unseasonable Manchester weather has allowed good progress with this vital early preparatory work. Click here to read the full article.


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