Following a difficult season on the pitch and a summer of infighting and resignations off it, FC United have elected a new board and the mood at Broadhurst Park is improving.
In their first season at their new Moston home, the fan-owned club initially struggled to adapt to life in the National League North before rallying in the second half of the season to finish 13th.
But it was events off the pitch which made the headlines as disgruntled members attacked a ‘lack of democracy, transparency and accountability’ at the club, culminating in the resignation of General Manager Andy Walsh and seven of the eleven board members, and a pitch invasion by anti-board protesters at the final home game.
Now, following a well-attended General Meeting in May and an emergency Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in June, the club has a new board and optimism is once again spreading ahead of the new season.
— FC United Manchester (@FCUnitedMcr) 22 June 2016
“It’s been an interesting few weeks,” one FC United founder member and fanzine writer told MM.
“The mood has picked up a lot and there is an air of optimism.”
May’s General Meeting in Prestwich was attended by over 400 supporters who addressed the perceived ‘democratic deficit’ at the club by debating and voting on the various mechanisms which govern the club.
“It was a heck of a meeting,” MM was told.
“It went on for about four and a half hours just spent going through all the resolutions and members’ votes.
“So it was quite a debate. It was quite feisty at times, as you’d expect, but we came out of it stronger and thinking it was worthwhile.”
Fan engagement had been decreasing year on year with supporters happy to turn a blind eye to the activities of the board whilst uniting behind the common goal of moving into Broadhurst Park.
At last November’s annual general meeting, less than 10% of the club’s members cast votes, leading active supporters to distribute a pamphlet encouraging fellow fans to vote and ‘improve democracy at FC United’.
“It was great to see the number of people who were there [at the general meeting] and who were involved in the debate,” said MM’s source.
“It shows you just how many people care about our club. So we came out of it feeling very positive and I think that carried on through to the EGM.”
At last month’s EGM an unprecedented 19 members put themselves forward for the board – 11 being eventually elected with over 600 votes cast.
“I expected it to be a decent turnout I was quite surprised that there were as many as 19 candidates, so that was really encouraging,” said the source.
— FC United Manchester (@FCUnitedMcr) 6 July 2016
“I think the thing that has got a lot them elected is their commitment to transparency and honesty and the way that the club is being run.
“There are certain individuals that have already been talking about issues on the online forum for months. And there are others who have been really good at highlighting some of the things that we’ve fallen down on over the last year.
“So there’s a mix of different qualities.”
With ticket prices at Old Trafford and, to a lesser extent, the Etihad, having effectively priced an entire generation out of watching live football, FC United have prided themselves on providing affordable football for younger fans.
“It’s great to see a number of younger candidates on the board now, they said.
“Traditionally, the board has had an average age of somewhere in the forties so it’s great to see a few younger people coming through as well, it’s much needed.”
Following the resignation of Andy Walsh, who was instrumental in leading the initial fight against the Glazer takeover of Manchester United and founding FC United, the club currently have no General Manager, but the new board are in no rush to appoint a successor.
“I think we need to decide initially what we want before we start appointing anyone,” they said.
“There’s a question as to whether we need an Andy Walsh type General Manager figure or not. It’s a tricky one.”
Attention now turns to matters on the pitch.
As they discovered last season, FC now find themselves in a much tougher league and fans were happy with a mid-table finish after briefly flirting with the threat of relegation.
‘Conceived in a Curry House’ – a play about FC starts next week.
— FC United Manchester (@FCUnitedMcr) 30 June 2016
“Last season started quite badly but we increased the playing budget during the season and we made a commitment to [manager] Karl Marginson to keep that budget higher for this season,” said our source.
“He’s had that reassurance going into the summer.
“I’d like to think we’d hold onto most of that squad that finished the season in which case we’ve got a fighting chance.
“It’s going to be even tougher this season. The likes of Salford and Darlington who have come up aren’t going to want to hang around in this division. And then you have big clubs like Halifax and Stockport and Chorley so it won’t be easy at all.
“Plus AFC Fylde who just missed out on promotion last season and have got to be one of the favourites again with the financial backing that they’ve got.”
Season ticket sales are currently down on last season but confidence in manager Karl Marginson remains high and the club are hoping that a fixture list brimming with exciting local derbies against the likes of Stockport County, Salford City and Altrincham will soon boost ticket sales.
“There are some clubs in this division with big away followings,” they said.
“The likes of Darlington who have come up, we expect them to travel in numbers, and Halifax who have come down. So there are going to be a few big crowds.”
FC United begin their eleventh season away at old rivals Chorley on August 6 before welcoming Telford United and Stockport County to Broadhurst Park the following week as they look to consign last season’s teething problems to history.
Image courtesy of PI Alpha, via Youtube, with thanks.