Friday, October 14, 2005

FC United fury over 'profiteering' jibes

Stuart Brennan
Source: Manchester Evening News

FC UNITED have accused Manchester United of "spectacularly missing the point" when they spoke out about the rebel club for the first time.

Old Trafford marketing director Peter Draper angered many FC United supporters when he said in that the breakaway club was just a scaled-down version of the Premiership giants.

He went on: "The most interesting thing is that they aren't letting anyone in for free. They will have a sponsor in due course. If they win promotion they will want to buy better players.

"In order to fulfil that wish they will start to sell nice butties rather than curly ones."

FC United spokesman Jules Spencer says that his club, formed in response to Malcolm Glazer's takeover and the increasing commercialisation of Manchester United, is at the opposite end of the spectrum, whatever Draper says.

"He spectacularly misses the point," said Spencer. "But we don't blame him for those views - it is indicative of the bubble that people who run the top level of football in this country, live in.

"We have never had an issue with commercialism at Manchester United, only the nature of it, and where the money is ending up - a great deal of it ended up in shareholders' pockets and now it ends up in Malcolm Glazer's pockets.

"Any money we make at FC United goes straight back into the club. Not a penny is siphoned off."


Spencer also points out that FC United now have sponsors - the main club sponsor is the Bhopal Medical Appeal charity, which helps victims of the horrific chemical spillage in India in 1984 which killed 20,000 and has left the city still in serious trouble.

"They have become sponsors because they believe in the ethos and the principles we stand for, as we believe in theirs," said Spencer. "And despite what Peter Draper says, any ticket price rises we institute will be dictated by the supporters on a one person, one vote basis.

"It is strange that Peter should mention that we don't let anyone in for free, just a couple of weeks after we let 700 kids in for free.

"He should know that it simply wouldn't be viable to let people in for free on a regular basis, but we will strive to do things like that as often as we can."

The timing of Draper's comments have interested many at FC United - it came just days after the club had a record 3,808 attendance for their 6-0 win over Daisy Hill.

FC United are getting used to such disinformation - the Padiham manager whose team faced the Rebels in the first game at Gigg Lane in August told his players in his pre-match talk that FC's players were on £600 a man and manager Karl Marginson was getting £900 a week.


That rumour has taken hold, with a whisper doing the rounds that FC have a £5,000-a-week wage bill, which is laughed off by acting general manager Andy Walsh. It also came as news to Marginson, who is still getting up at 4am to start his food delivery rounds.

But where IS the money going? When FC United took its first breath in the summer, formed by Manchester United supporters angered by Glazer's takeover, around 4,000 financial pledges raised around £100,000.

And now, with crowds flocking to Gigg Lane to witness a football revolution - fuelled by discontent with high prices, poor atmosphere and the greed endemic in the higher echelons of the game - cash is still rolling into the FC United coffers.

The last two home games have seen crowd figures of 3,110 and 3,808, giving them an average home crowd higher than hosts Bury and neighbouring Rochdale get in League Two.

For their next home game, against Nelson on October 22, FC United will open up the South Stand at Gigg Lane. Hitherto they have only opened the Manchester Road End and Main Stand.

The amazing crowds have brought in an average of around £15,000 a game, with supporters paying £7 a time and £2 for juniors. And that is without totting up the income from replica shirts, scarves, badges and other merchandise, the demand for which are far outstripping the club's current ability to supply.

The cynics have sneered that the club's founding principle, of football for the love of the game rather than for greed, have already been compromised.


Not the case, snaps Walsh, one of the leading lights in the club's formation, and now a key man in the day-to-day running of the club. "The difference is that every penny we get, through the turnstiles, or from merchandise, is going back into developing the club," he said.

"The £100,000 in donations at the start of the season gave the league, and our players, some surety that we could see the season out even if nobody had come through the turnstiles.

"But we are now in the position where we can look to expand and take our message out to a wider audience. We are also building a fund so that we can eventually have our own ground.

"We have plans for a community scheme starting in a couple of months, including a coaching programme for kids and also a chance for supporters and players to get their own coaching badges. We are also looking at a scheme to produce referees."