FC United lights way with return to spiritual home

March 25, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion No comments

FC United of Manchester is to build a 5,000 seat stadium in Newton Heath – the birthplace of modern Manchester United. Disaffected supporters set up FC United after the Glazers’ takeover in 2005, with games being played at Bury’s Gigg Lane this season. The new ground will offer a permanent home for the Red Rebels.

The democratic supporter-owned and run club proposes to include community sports facilities at the stadium, which has been given an ‘amber’ light by Manchester City Council. The stadium, which requires £3.5 million in funding, is to be built at the existing Ten Acres Lane sports ground (above) in the North East of the city.

“FC United, New East Manchester and Manchester City Council have been working closely over the past two years to develop the plans and consultation will now progress with local residents, community groups and FC United members who own the club,” said a club statement today.

“FC United is working to secure the finance for the £3.5m development, which will include a public appeal for donations, a Community Shares issue and grant funding.”

Managed by Karl Marginson, FC United lies 12th in the Unibond League Premier Division, which is the seventh rung of the football pyramid, following three promotions in five years. Despite just missing out on a spot in the Unibond play-offs last season the club has failed to progress on the pitch this campaign.

FC United eschews shirt sponsorship as a direct result of the perceived over-commercialisation of football that took place at United in the lead-up to the Glazer takeover. But renting a stadium costs the club around £3,000 per match – a situation General Manager Andy Walsh is keen to change.

“The announcement will be a big boost to the club and we also want the development to be of benefit to Newton Heath, the discussions with the council have been very positive and we are grateful for their support,” added Walsh.

“The significance of this location is historical while it will also showcase a new model of facility development, based on football supporter ownership and community involvement.”

The Ten Acres Lane stadium will be ready by the 2012/13 season said the club today. FC United averages crowds of just under 2,000, although nearly 3,000 saw the side’s first FA Cup tie earlier this season. The new ground may even attract a greater local following given the level of dissatisfaction at Old Trafford with the Glazer family’s ownership.

Not that FC United supporters have eschewed all affinity with big brother just six miles across town. Green and gold is regularly seen at FC’s matches, although the side plays in a very traditional red and white kit.

Perhaps most pertinently the club has kept ticket prices to a minimum, with a “pay-what-you-can-afford” policy meaning season tickets cost from £90 for adults and £21 for children.

With no little irony, FC United’s is a model of club ownership that the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) is keen to follow should a Red Knights’ backed bid prove successful in the coming months.

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