Source: Red Issue (no online content), circa February 2005
As the spectre of Malcolm Glazer spectre looms ever larger over Old Trafford it's only natural that the question has been increasingly asked: "what would you do if he actually did take over?" For many of those so resolutely committed to the rejection of Glazer's advances, that would mean the end of their match-going days (at least for as long as the American lorded over Old Trafford). Those fighting the hardest are undoubtedly doing so because United is their club, their life, but the conviction with which the fight has been taken to Glazer would be matched only by the conviction that they would have nothing to do with a "franchise" which Glazer owned. I write as someone who is committed to spending not a single penny towards a club bought out by Glazer and from speaking to numerous Reds over recent weeks and months it's clear that any sale of the club would mean the end of United "careers" for many, many others, who have witnessed the gradual erosion of the week-to-week match-going experience they once fell in love with. Some have said they simply couldn't give United up and to a degree that's understandable. The money spent, the beers sunk, the dates spurned, the jobs lost, the journeys made - how can anyone commit to walking away from United? (The thought of spending Saturday mornings in IKEA would surely fill most regular match-going Reds with dread - and that was before last week's riot in Edmonton.) But what if you could give up supporting Glazer's company without giving up United? After all, United isn't represented by the club, or the players or the manager or the directors or the shareholders. Glazer can gain the blessing of all of them but without the supporters what would he really have? He wouldn't have Manchester United Football Club. The support is this club's body, heart and soul and without the support the club is worthless in name and worthless on paper.
Back in the days of the Murdoch campaign there were times that the fight seemed lost. What in effect was an evacuation plan was drawn up, detailing the blueprint for the formation of a new Manchester United, one which spurned all the commercialism and tackiness of the modern game and which was controlled and run by the supporters. With United again under threat - this time from Glazer - those plans have been resurrected, and in the last few weeks preliminary investigations have been undertaken into the feasibility of such a proposal. With a working name of 'FC United' the logistics of the operation to set up a new Manchester United for fans disillusioned and disenfranchised by Malcolm Glazer has been looked into. Contact has been made with fans of AFC Wimbledon who have provided help and information about the lower league network, whilst tentative enquiries have been made about the possibility of ground sharing at The Willows with Salford City Reds. Another option that is being considered is returning to Newton Heath's roots and setting up home at Eastlands. Manchester City Council owns the ground and rules governing its lottery funding state that it has to be given over to community use for a number of 130 days per year. Whilst this currently primarily involves use of conference facilities there is nothing to say that it can't be extended to use of the pitch and stands.
It will never happen.
It was only last month that we were exposed to the warming tale of Exeter City, whilst the achievements of AFC Wimbledon and its supporters are the ultimate inspiration. Wimbledon have already made their way from the Combined Counties League to the Isthmian League where they sit proudly atop Division One - should, as expected, they gain promotion they'll start next season only two divisions below the Football League - whilst the soulless, heartless MK Dons flounder around in the relegation zone of League One. Charles Koppel's vanity, greed and arrogance may well have destroyed Wimbledon FC as was, but in AFC Wimbledon the club lives on. Proudly notched on AFC's honours list is the legend "FA Cup Winners 1988". And rightly so. With two European Cups and a Treble to their name, FC United will be the most celebrated club ever to take the field in the North West Counties League.
So with the initial framework in place, what now?
Well, for the moment precisely nothing. The plans will only be implemented in the event Glazer manages to force through his takeover and until that happens, everyone involved will do their damnedest to prevent it. For now, Manchester United is still our club, and it's the fervent hope of everyone that it remains so. However, announcing this now is to show both United fans and Glazer that we won't simply roll over and accept the fact should he ever defeat the opposition. There are other options and they will be followed through successfully. Reds now know that they will have football to watch and a club they can identify with. The sheer bloody joy of the mass of United fans taking over towns such as Fleetwood, St Helens, Ramsbottom, Colne, Congleton, Atherton etc as FC United embark on its debut season would not be one that could be matched by following any soulless, sterile commercial entity run by Glazer.
If Glazer does take over, what happens?
A public meeting will be called at which a suggested framework for the club will presented. The club's constitution will be drawn up and officers and committee will be elected by the membership on a fair and equitable basis. FC United shall be based upon:
- A outright refusal to recognise Malcolm Glazer's franchise.
- Ownership of FC United being held by a supporters' trust.
- All profits being reinvested in the club.
- FC United will play in red, white and black.
- The club will never carry a sponsor on the front of its shirt, whilst tie-ups of any kind will only be accepted from reputable companies.
- Support amongst the youth of Manchester and Salford will be a priority and actively encouraged. Discounts will be available to all under-18s and OAPs.
- FC United will encourage local businesses whenever possible.
- The club will actively encourage local talent through its proposed Junior Athletic Club.
Once the club has been founded moves will be made to attract personalities sympathetic to the cause. Following the patronage of Shareholders United by Ole Solskjaer and the support of Eric Cantona in the Not For Sale campaign, both would be approached in the belief that they would accept playing/managerial positions. It is to be hoped the likes of Brian Kidd and Arthur Albiston would be keen and credible options for the coaching set-up.
Would Glazer's franchise be treated as 'the enemy'?
Malcolm Glazer would be treated as the enemy. FC United's intention is to provide United fans with the community they've always enjoyed, but one untainted by the commercialism and authoritarianism we currently suffer, and which would become so much worse for those who remain loyal to 'the franchise'. Much like with members of la resistance staked out in London, we would await regime change whilst aiding all attempts to undermine the illegitimate occupation. We'd hope one day to return home with the invader vanquished, bankrupt and routed. It's understandable that not all will have the stomach for the battle. When Glazer is defeated, FC United will be happy to return to Old Trafford and merge with 'the franchise' on condition that the supporters' trust maintains full ownership of the club and that the unified Manchester United take over the higher league position of FC United.
For now the battle against Glazer continues. But should the unthinkable ever happen people will have choices to make. 'The Franchise' or FC United? The thought of being part of something new, something untainted, attracted far more Wimbledon fans to AFC than it did to Milton Keynes. For the hardcore of Old Trafford, the prospect of thousands travelling up to Blackpool to watch FC United take on Squires Gate, before returning home with a trail of mayhem, pubs with no beer left and deflowered local maidens in our wake, will be too much to resist. Viva la revolucion!
(Anyone who can offer any help or support to FC United please email FCUnited@hotmail.co.uk)