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· Rebel’s protest cuts attendance by 1,000
· Boycott sparked by kick-off time switch
CURZON ASHTON 0 C UNITED 2
FC United fans voted with their feet to boycott their team's key promotion battle at Curzon Ashton - and left their top-of-the-table hosts counting the cost.
Just 297 paying spectators, at least 1,000 fewer than might otherwise have been expected, turned up at the Tameside Stadium to witness FC reignite their UniBond Division One North title challenge with this victory over the leaders.
That followed a request by FC chiefs for the supporters to stay away in protest at the League's decision to switch the kick-off to 12.45 p.m. so that it could be shown live on the Internet on NPLTV.
Curzon officials estimate the fans' no-show cost them £10,000 in gate money, a vast sum for a club of their size.
And, while accepting FC's reasons for the boycott. Curzon chairman Ham Galloway. whose club also opposed the kick-off time being brought forward from 3 p.m.. said he was "disappointed" it had taken place and blamed the League for having failed to stop it.
Galloway said: "It's written into FC United's constitution that they are not going to be pushed around by TV companies over kick-offs, but I would never support a boycott from our supporters on this issue. I think it could have been prevented by the League. There was no need for it to come to this.
"Of course, we are disappointed by the gate because we were expecting at least another 1,000 on top."
FC United's general manager Andy Walsh defended the boycott, saying: "We are aware of how important television is to football, but our objection is that assurances we believe we were given by the UniBond League that games would not be moved for TV without the agreement of the clubs have been reneged upon.
"As a result, and also because the League ignored the express wishes of both clubs, we reluctantly asked our supporters not to attend the game but instead watch our reserves play Club AZ at Abbey Hey.
"As a members'-owned club, it's not surprising that our fans heeded the call, with 467 attending the reserve team fixture and just a handful travelling to Curzon.
"We have been accused of being narrow minded, but we are not burying our heads in the sand and recognise that some disruption to kick-off times is the inevitable price paidfor the money given to football by the TV companies.
"But the wishes of the match-going fans must be paramount, otherwise what are we here for?"
John Warrington, spokesman for the UniBond League's TV partners Invision, insists his company made no pledges to FC United- He said. "We are disappointed about this boycott because at no point were any promises made in respect of changing kick-offs on a Saturday.
"Had such assurances been requested by FC United, they would not have been given. We feel the reasons for the boycott are groundless.'
Goals by Simon Carden and Rob Nugent secured FC a victory which takes them back up to fifth place.
They trail Curzon by nine points and also have a game in hand on them.