Thursday, May 19, 2011

FC United chief meets disaffected Bedford Town fans

 Source: Bedford Today

 Published on Thursday 19 May 2011 12:25

 ANDY Walsh, chief executive of FC United of Manchester, was the guest speaker at a public meeting in Bedford this week.

Andy was a prime driver in the establishment of FC United, formed by supporters disaffected with the takeover of Manchester United by the Glzzer family - a move that has seen the club take on a large debt.

Six years on FC United has enjoyed three promotions, attracts crowds of 2,000 to home games and is looking to move into its own stadium in the heart of the city.

He journeyed down to Bedford to offer his support to The BEST, who aim to lead a consortium to buy out Bedford Town Football Club and turn into into a community interest company.

Speaking to the Times & Citizen ahead of the meeting at Bedford Corn Exchange, he said: “The general message is to all the community who care about the football club, it is quite clear that the intention of The BEST is to put the football club at the centre of the community, and for the benefit of the wider community.

“Bedford have got a history of large crowds, but they are in difficult times, fighting off relegation for a couple of years but still attracting crowds of 300, impressive for their level.

“If you want to make comparisons with FC United of Manchester, we attract around 2,000, but off regular gates of 2,000 we have raised £2 million from our supporters. So with 300 supporters you can raise a lot of money.”

Bedford is currently in ownership, but Andy didn’t see that as a major obstacle. “The important thing is to ensure fans have a realistic say in the way the club is run.

“We couldn’t stop the Glazer takeover. We were a very important part of the campaign to stop them, and further along we came to set up FC United of Manchester.”

He scotched claims that the good principles of community interest companies would not work in the real world of football.

“Look at AFC Wimbledon, currently in the conference league play-offs. Look at Exeter, pressing for promotion.

“Look in Europe. Barcelona, it’s a supporter owned club.”

He continued: “Which chairmen can put their hand on their heart and say they don’t have the club’s best interests at heart? If they can, get these supporters involved, let them elect the board, or at least let them elect a member on to the board.

“The biggest challenge to overcome is cynicism, cynicism from people who don’t believe you can do it.

“They think people with money know how to run a football club, and supporters are oiks who don’t. Well, ourselves, AFC Wimbledon and others have shown that supporters can run clubs.”

He said club success was not the only measure of a good club.

“There are only two or three trophies for teams to go for in any season. Most teams in any league can’t win, so you can’t measure success by that.

“The success of a community club is on the terraces, the sense of camaraderie between the players and supporters. Everyone standing together in a common cause, rich man, poor man, rich woman, poor woman.”