No real home in TEN years doesn’t stop FC United from giving to Manchester

FC United of Manchester made headlines last week through the success of their £2million community share scheme which only further serves to reflect the non-league club’s different stance to the majority of others.

The money raised will fund a stadium, named Broadhurst Park by fans in April last year, and a community sports facility that will be home to 3G and grass pitches, function rooms and classrooms.

But just how is this new business model making such waves in the national consciousness?

Speaking to MM, FC United’s press and communications officer Andy Walker made it clear that the club will certainly not be driven down the well-trodden path that ends in rich men getting richer or fans getting fleeced for pies of dubious quality by faceless corporations.

“If you look at the amount of money washing around in the game, then you consider that it’s only Chelsea in the Premier League that have actually committed to pay the Living Wage – that’s outrageous really,” said Walker.

FC United’s accreditation as a Living Wage employer in October last year, meaning that the minimum amount they pay their staff is £7.65 an hour rather than the £6.50, further underlines the club’s ethos.

Despite the fact that they are a semi-professional club, three divisions below League 2, United were the first club in England to make this move.

“We became a Living Wage Employer because it’s the right thing to do,” said Walker.

“It’s an indication of where the priorities of those clubs lie. At the end of the day it’s the people who work for those clubs as well as the supporters that are the most important people.

“Other clubs should be following suit – but we’ll leave others to judge what other clubs should do, I’m not getting into that debate.”

Understandably Walker prefers to focus on the all the positive noises coming out of his club.

“We want to really make a difference to the people of the local area and the people of North Manchester more widely,” he explained.

“The stadium itself will be a community facility, it isn’t just going to be used by us at United.

“What we hope to develop at Broadhurst Park is a hub that is delivering sporting activity and sporting events, but also delivering other recreational and educational courses.

“That’s down to our members and the people in the local community – what do they want us to put on there?

“It’s very much the intention for it to be a fully-used, fully-utilised facility, seven-days-a-week.”

To find such a well-intentioned football club seems at first to be a paradox beyond comprehension.

However, the structure of this rather remarkable club sheds light into how such a selfless attitude has become FC United’s raison d’être.

“Our fans are co-owners of the club, so they have an equal say on how the club is run,” said Walker.

“They elect the board and they make the major decisions that have to be made, be that the price of our tickets, the price of our season-tickets, whether or not we change our kit each year, the name of our new ground.

“We have an annual general meeting and four other meetings every year. At our next one we’ll be discussing future priorities for the new ground.

“All of those kinds of decisions are made by the fans.”

It is hard to see how the future can be anything but bright for a club who will find it impossible not to win the hearts of those fortunate enough to have dealings with them.

Walker insists that FC United’s primary aim of giving back to the community is what has brought such support.

But he believes that having a home stadium will give the club a solid foundation to give even more in their efforts to impress on the pitch, and to progress up the English football pyramid.

“We have always had a target and a dream of having a ground of our own,” Walker admitted.

“We’ve been in existence for ten years this year but we haven’t really played a home match – effectively we’ve played away matches for the last ten years.

“Who knows what will happen on the pitch? But we’re top of the league at the moment. The last four years we’ve narrowly missed out on promotion through the play-offs.

“Our plans going forward are to continue the progress we’re making on the pitch by playing entertaining, decent football and to develop our facilities as far as we can.

“Once we get into that ground it enables us to start making some serious plans for the future, as obviously things like the revenue we’re going to be able to attract is something that previously wasn’t available to us.

“Once we start doing that we can sit down and think ‘right, where are we going to go in the next five years, where are we going to go in the next ten years?’

“Our key aim so far has been to get into our ground and, all being well, at the end of March that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.”

A bit like Bill and Ted, it’s hard not to wish them well on this most excellent adventure.

Main image courtesy of Hard Lines Productions via YouTube, with thanks.

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