I love this story, because it’s so unlike anything you see in American sports. I mean, if you hated Daniel Snyder before he bought the Washington Redskins, there wasn’t much you could do about it when he became owner. You could switch allegiances, but that was kind of drastic, especially if you grew up loving the Hogs. You could complain about it, but where would that get you?
That’s why I love how Manchester United fans responded when Malcolm Glazer bought their club in 2005. Sure, they yelled a lot and called Malcolm Glazer terrible things, but eventually, they realized that all that yelling couldn’t stop Glazer’s takeover. So they all said, “You know what? Screw Man U. We’re forming our own damn football club!”
That club is F.C. United of Manchester, though you can call them just F.C. United or F.C.U.M. (Nope, no implications toward the Glazer family in that abbreviation. None at all.) F.C. United may be far, far away from the glories of the Premier League, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the most popular non-league football clubs in England, ranking fifth among non-league clubs in attendance and keeping a six-figure bank account.
That support has translated to victories on the field. In 2005, F.C. United entered the North West Counties Football League Division 2 — for those keeping score at home, that’s level 10 in the English football league system — and they promptly won the league and got promoted to Division 1. They have already been confirmed as the Division 1 champions this season, and they will play in the UniBond League First Division next season. (If “UniBond League” sounds familiar to you, it may be because of this bit of nightmare fuel. You find the damnedest things on YouTube…)
Much of F.C. United’s manifesto revolves around an outright rejection of commercialism in football. The club, which was formed as an industrial and provident society (whatever that means), strives to be “be accessible to all, discriminating against none,” encouraging youth and community participation in the game of football. Its goals include promotion to Conference North (level 6 in the English league system) and an average attendance of 5,000 per game by 2009, and its own stadium in Greater Manchester with a seating capacity of up to 10,000 by 2012.
If this club ever makes it into the Football League — and at their current rate, this would happen in 2011 — I have my doubts that it will hold on to those non-commercial principles in its manifesto. A flush of cash always changes things, especially in football. Regardless, it’s just awesome to see a whole group of fans break away from their chosen club and build their own. If F.C.U.M. ever draw Man U in an FA Cup match, the whole city of Manchester is going to go batshit bonkers.
I wonder how much it costs to become a sponsor. You can’t put your name on the club jerseys, but you can get your name on the match ball. I think an inquiry is in order…
(Props to The Offside.)