Friday, March 26, 2010

Fans of 'real' United plan stadium in giant's heartland

Source: Reuters

13:09 GMT, Thu 25 Mar 2010

By Miles Evans

LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - A local club born out of disillusionment with the running of Manchester United are seeking to build a new stadium in the suburb where the 18-times English champions were founded.

FC United, a semi-pro team established in 2005 after the American Glazer family took over the Old Trafford club, took a step closer this week to its dream of a ground in Newton Heath, where the Premier League behemoth first came to being over 140 years ago.

FC United passed the first stage en route to the new 3.5 million-pound stadium in the Manchester suburb when the local council approved its business plan on Monday.

Manchester United, with home crowds of around 75,000 and a brand estimated to be worth around 1.5 billion pounds ($2.25 billion), were formed as Newton Heath in 1878 before joining the Football League in 1892.

"You can't get away from the emotion of the location but this is as much about our future as the past and we are a club laying down our roots," FC United board member Jules Spencer told Reuters.

FC United play in front of an average of gate of 2,000 at Bury's Gigg Lane ground in the seventh tier of English football and Spencer said the ethos was to provide affordable matches and an antidote to the rampant commercialisation of the game.

"The ironic thing is the decision (to form the club) was made at a time of United's greatest successes, but there is a general malaise about the game not just about what the Glazers have done.

"We are trying to create a positive alternative for ordinary fans, we are not trying to claim the moral high ground.

"The vast majority of people watch their football through the television and that is something we want to change."

The funding for the new ground will be raised through a community share issue, Spencer said, and the new 5,000 capacity ground has a 2012-2013 completion date.

The original green and gold colours of the Newton Heath club are being used as part of a separate fan campaign by Manchester United supporters to protest at the Glazers' ownership. A group of wealthy supporters known as the Red Knights have recently been linked with a takeover of the club, whose 2009 accounts showed it to be 507 million pounds in debt.