Monday, June 18, 2012

FC United sign up MMU architecture students - to design dugouts at new stadium

 Source: MEN

 Architecture students will cut their teeth by designing snazzy dugouts for Manchester’s latest football stadium.

Trainee designers at Manchester Metropolitan University are being challenged to think outside the box when it comes to the traditional pitch-side shelters.

They will design eye-catching new dugouts for the £5m FC United stadium.

The community club, formed in protests at the Glazer family’s takeover of Manchester United, are building a 5,000-seat stadium on playing fields in Moston.

And a group of 180 second-year architecture students have been asked to come up with original ideas.

It follows a hands-on exercise last year, when MMU students were let loose at stately home Dunham Massey, creating a series of stunning extravagant garden ornaments. Lecturer Laura Sanderson said the new challenge would test students’ creativity.

She said: “We are working with the club to create two new dug outs. The brief to students will be that they need to break the mould and come up with an original idea.

“Although, we’re still at an early stage, we’d be looking to involve the community in getting their ideas about what they could look like.

“The project at Dunham Massey was really successful.

“Our students ended up creating six follies which were really eye-catching. It’s great experience for our students to see their ideas actually get fabricated.”

The Northern Premier League club, who currently use Bury FC’s Gigg Lane,  hope to be in their new ground for the 2013/14 season.

But the move sparked a bitter row, with many people in Moston opposed to the location on the Ronald Johnson Playing Fields.

Council bosses gave permission for the building last October, despite more than 2,200 objections.

Friday, June 15, 2012

That's the ticket as Bradford Park Avenue bid to maximise their income

 Source: Bradford Telegraph and Argus

 The backroom team at Horsfall Stadium are working hard to maximise their income so that they can compete in the Blue Square Bet North Division after winning promotion.

Finance director Kevin Hainsworth and chairman John Dean are looking into new avenues of sponsorship and are also trying to extend their ties with their long- term partners.

The club’s chief executive officer Bob Blackburn is helping out in his own area of expertise and overseeing extensive work on the ground.

Blackburn said: “It will be a Wembley-type surface for the players this coming season because there is a lot of work going into it. We have already done a lot on the buildings and seating areas in the stands.

“There has been a lot more interest since we won promotion, and Kevin and John are doing a lot and season tickets are selling well. It is a big step up - we know that, but we feel we owe it to our supporters to give it our best shot.

“The fans were brilliant last season and I’m glad for them that we repaid them for standing in the rain on miserable midweek nights.

"There will also be a constant reminder of our play- off final win to all the season-ticket holders because a picture of Tom Greaves’ goal is on the back!

“I think that’s brilliant and I couldn’t resist having a dig at Jon Worsnop. I rang him up to tell him he was on the back of our new season ticket – picking the ball out of the back of the net.

"He called me something I couldn’t possibly repeat but he took it in good spirit, and that’s him all over. He loves the banter.”

Worsnop began his career with Bradford’s other club, City, but had a spell with Avenue under Lee Sinnott. He is currently with FC United of Manchester and was between the sticks for the Mancunians in the play-off final.

He had a good game but was finally beaten by Greaves’ predatory strike in the last few minutes of extra time.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Football Beyond The Euros, Hornby & Banter

 Source: The Quietus

 It's football-bloody-football all over the telly at the moment. But, argues Joe Kennedy, beyond the flag-waving the sport offers a form of popular modernism.

International football tournaments come around so quickly these days. Maybe it's a consequence of getting older, but the PASSION!-themed TV advertising seems to start as the ears are still ringing with the previous competition's sententious punditry. Sure enough, I'm still recovering from my twenty-ninth birthday - involving a Pennine reservoir's-worth of booze and a 2010 World Cup quarter-final penalty shoot-out soundtracked experimentally with Mahler's Tragische Symphony No. 6 - and the Poland-Ukraine European Championships are getting underway. The media are microwaving their xenophobic patter, and part-time fans across England are consulting their WKD sides to escape those long-scheduled family christenings to watch the group matches down the local. Banter, endless bloody banter, drifts through the window on the breeze to chisel away that vestige of the life-force left intact by the Jubilympics. It must be hellish if you don't like football.

In fact, it's not entirely pleasant if you do, or do in a way that exceeds donning an England shirt and yelling at a pub television every two years. As someone who spends a substantial amount of time watching lower-league football, my haughtiness towards international tournaments is akin to that of a Detroit techno connoisseur offered a guest-listing for a Scooter show. While the standard of play at World Cups and Euros is typically exceptional, and the drama of the competitions undeniable, it's hard not to feel that a misappropriation occurs during them. It isn't that I believe sport is ruined when it becomes a vehicle for collective expression – quite the opposite, in fact – but that football loses its subversive capacities when coloured by nationalistic ideology.

Unfortunately, it's at precisely the moments that football becomes especially visible to its detractors that it most closely matches their perception of it as an arena of loutish behaviour and ungainly sentiment. On many occasions, I've implored a sceptical friend, full of justified ire at hearing stories of (for example) foreign students being attacked after another disappointing tournament elimination for England, to believe me when I tell them that it isn't really like that. And it isn't: dichotomies between 'boorish' football and civilised behaviour are premised on an unfair caricature.

This isn't, I should add, a Nick Hornby-derived theory. In Fever Pitch, the 1992 book widely credited with 'liberating' football from the clutches of hooliganism and delivering it a new audience of sensitive aesthetes, Hornby brought cheese-course conviction to the notion that a life well-lived could accommodate both a comprehensive understanding of John Updike's sexual worldview and trips to Arsenal. Essentially, it was a manual designed to assist Guardian readers to justify the fact that they occasionally tuned into Match of the Day. It was, at best, problematic.

Those who despise the game and the Hornbyites set up two positions. The first portrays football as anything from a pointless waste of time to a pernicious vehicle of false consciousness, a post-religious opium of the people. The second revels in football's supposed primitivism, situating it in opposition to, say, theatre or art cinema. My sense is that both of these arguments lack credibility, and that the sport offers in its own right a way towards social and cultural awareness. Scratch beneath the surface of its mass-media incarnations, the vaguely Rollerball-like Sky Super Sundays and the overstated laddishness of Soccer AM, and it becomes apparent that fan culture is characterised by an organic political intelligence.

The ability of supporters to mobilise themselves in resistance to what they regard as the theft of the game by business disabuses their widely-held reputation for quietism, a myth propagated by both the antis and the Hornbys. In Britain, explicitly oppositional supporter politics has led to the formation of several clubs, most notably AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester. The former came into being in 2002 when a consortium purchased the original Wimbledon FC and moved them to Milton Keynes. Fans rallied and formed AFCW, an organisation with an unprecedently democratic ownership structure: they have risen swiftly through the semi-professional ranks to sit one division below MK Dons, the 'franchise' team. FC United, meanwhile, exist thanks to a section of Manchester United fans resentful at the increasing domination of top-level football by the market forces that have priced working-class Mancunians out of Old Trafford. The new, self-consciously socialist club attract crowds of between two and three thousand to their games in the seventh tier of the English football system, and have inspired similar projects hostile to football's privatisation.

Beyond these cases, there is certainly an argument that club-level supporting is inherently politicised. Generally, the ownership of football clubs resembles a scale model of capitalism as defined by Marx: the supporters constitute the club's identity, and thus create its 'product', but the entities which result are - almost universally - owned by a limited number of people with the financial wherewithal to purchase a stake. The football 'experience' is then sold back to the people who generate it in the first place, and the loyalty of fans allows for a monopolistic control over things like ticket prices. Barring the occasional confluences of interest that occur when proverbial local-boys-made-good take over their boyhood teams, the relationship between supporters and owners is effectively an antagonistic one.

This antagonism is what lends supporting a team its countercultural force. In the 1980s, when the British game was in the process of encountering the first wave of rapacious asset-stripping Thatcherites, protest began to be expressed in the fanzine movement. Many football fanzine editors cut their teeth on DIY punk and post-punk publications and in the schismatised left politics of the late 70s and early 80s. At Darlington, my local club, the Xeroxed 'zine was called Mission Impossible, and was sold outside our ramshackle stadium by bearded guys who fitted the visual archetype of SWP canvassers. It was dominated by extensively-researched investigations into the machinations of a series of disreputable chairmen, and also featured analyses of broader problems for supporters such as implementation of the Criminal Justice Bill at matches.

Like most fanzines, Mission Impossible complemented its political take on the game with discussions of leftfield film, music and stand-up, thus situating supporting within a more general context of popular dissent. The frame of reference for its coverage of music was based on the likes of Half Man Half Biscuit and, more intriguingly for a fourteen year-old from a farming town where Oasis and Shed Seven were considered sonic pathfinders, The Fall. The notion of a group who played aggressive, repetitive music overlaid with lyrics composed in a complex, cryptic spin on northern English was weirdly alluring, and seemed to echo the quickfire absurdism and surrealist wordplay – which would shock anyone who thought football was all gormless banter – I'd heard on the terraces. Ultimately, the experimental music I'd first encountered because of football developed into a love of modernist literature which has, well, ended up with me scraping a living in precarious teaching jobs and cultural journalism. To borrow Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher's formulation to describe those bands who point towards a whole treasure-trove of obscure cultural expression, the invariably soaking South Terrace at Darlington was my 'portal'.

Beyond this nostalgia, there are firmer links between football and experimental art. The standard rules of the game were codified in 1863, a year significant for aesthetics in that it was when Charles Baudelaire published the essay 'The Painter of Modern Life'. Baudelaire's concern was to demonstrate that industrialised culture required new, more complex forms of representation, and aspects of his argument can be found in everything from Impressionist painting to noise music. The formalisation of football was also a response to the social shift away from traditional modes of living: in the games proffering of moments of extremely fleeting pleasure, it's also possible to glimpse the French poet's conviction that modernity could only offer transcendence in the transient. Few students of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century avant-gardes have investigated the link, but there's a great book waiting to be written on the way in which football can claim to be a form of popular modernism.

So, if you're frustrated by the myopic press coverage of Euro 2012, or you're finding yourself bemused by the fact that football never seems to leave the television, it's perhaps worth considering that the object of your indignation is not necessarily guilty of all it superficially appears to be. Beyond the jingoism generated by the national team and the hubris of the Premier League, football culture expresses itself with a creativity and spontaneity that the world at large seems unfortunately reluctant to acknowledge.

Joe Kennedy

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Six new rivals set to visit Marston Road

 Source: Staffordshire Newsletter

 STAFFORD Rangers will face no fewer than six new opponents next season.

The FA’s release of the 2012/13 league allocations shows the Evo-Stik Northern Premier league with 22 clubs.

They include promoted Ilkeston, Grantham Town (from the NPL division one South), Witton Albion and AFC Fylde (both NPL division one North).

In addition, Rangers will also face the relegated pair of Blyth Spartans and Eastwood Town, both of whom were demoted from the Blue Square North.

Following Northwich Victoria’s ground problems and their subsequent relegation to NPL division one (South), Frickley Athletic have been reprieved.

Other NPL premier sides are, Ashton United, Buxton, Chorley, Hednesford Town, FC United, Kendal, Marine, Matlock, Nantwich, North Ferriby, Rushall Olympic, Stocksbridge PS, Whitby Town and Worksop Town.

Rangers have so far confirmed six preseason friendly dates, starting with Congleton Town (home) on June 28.

That is followed by Stone Dominoes (away, July 7), Tamworth (home, July 14), Kidderminster Harriers (home, July 21), Llandudno (away, Aug 4) and Kidsgrove Athletic (away, Aug 11).

Rangers Chairman Mike Hughes will step down from his post at the end of this month after two years in the job. He will remain as a director.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Quixotic Tales of Misadventure and Submarines… (Part Two)

 Source: El Centrocampista

 In 1999, former Real Murcia player and now businessman (and, interestingly, football agent) Quique Pina decided to form his own club. The remit was to rise through the divisions as rapidly as possible, utilising business contacts, favours and his knowledge of the game and the world of the football agents. Amazingly, the project succeeded. Ciudad de Murcia had reached la Segunda within four years.

By the middle of the “noughties”, the incredible scene of both Murcia clubs duking it out for a promotion spot to La Primera was visible. Real Murcia, the grand old veterans and Ciudad de Murcia, the young upwardly-mobile upstarts. Both would just miss out – which precipitated earth shuddering events.

Real Murcia had long found that their atmospheric, but crumbling stadium, La Condomina, stifled their ability to progress as a club and as a commercial entity. The ground had a limited capacity of 17,000 and was hemmed in on all sides by and assortment of apartments, shops and even a bull-ring. Want refreshments at the match? They were found at the bars across the street. By now, the ground was also shared with Ciudad de Murcia. The club could not continue in such surroundings and they orchestrated a move to a new stadium on the outskirts of town. Very much like Bolton Wanderer’s Reebok Stadium, the ground was in the middle of nowhere in particular and replete with its own retail park.

Unfortunately, Ciudad de Murcia were to make an even bigger move of their own. Struggling financially to keep up with the demands of maintaining a club at such a high level, Quique Pina managed to give Spain its very own Wimbledon/MK Dons story. Ciudad de Murcia was sold – registration, league position and squad – and relocated almost 200 miles away in Granada, under the name of Granada 74. That this project was also ultimately doomed did nothing to lift the gloom in Murcia.

(However, neither did it hamper Quique Pina’s career. He went on to become instrumental in another Granada club’s meteoric rise through the divisions – bizarrely with the help of Udinese, who he had become a Spanish ambassador for. He became president of Granada along with being “sporting advisor” to Cadiz and Tenerife).

The small band of fans that had grown to love Ciudad de Murcia and share in its high-speed run through the league had therefore been left without a club to support. An attempt to resurrect the club was made at the time, but was short-lived and once again doomed because of finances.

One spark of optimism does come from the ashes of the club, however, in the shape of a fan-owned club – bearing the colours of Ciudad de Murcia and part of the name. Club de Accionariado Popular Ciudad de Murcia (CAP Ciudad de Murcia for short!) have been born in the image of AFC Wimbledon and of FC United of Manchester (and have recently made links with that club). It may be some time before they will be able to give Real Murcia a derby match, though, being 5 levels apart – but their fans/owners, unlike many at this level, are in this for the long haul and are truly committed to the cause.

Back in Cartagena, following promotion to La Segunda in 2009, FC Cartagena had a tremendous season, almost gaining promotion to La Primera, only missing out in the last couple of weeks of the 2009-10 season. It has been a very quick drop from those heights, though.

Cartagena’s most famous son is the engineer Isaac Peral. He gave the world the first battery-powered submarine, which is on display in the town, by the Marina. Having spent most of the season flirting with relegation, FC Cartagena were given a lifeline by the amarillos submarinos (yellow submarines) of Villareal.

With Villareal’s first team squad’s relegaton to La Segunda, their B team automatically, despite a mid-table finish, were relegated in turn. The four relegation places at the bottom of the table had magically become three.

However, Cartagena fluffed their lines and were relegated some six points from safety, leaving La Segunda without their Murcian derby and themselves with a mammoth task to try and rebuild and return to the division. They will need to keep the support they have had this season – and in time try to convert some of those locals in their Real Madrid and Barcelona shirts – not an easy thing to begin to do, particularly at the level they will now find themselves.

Real Murcia maintained their spot in the division and will patiently await whoever may arrive to renew local hostilities. With the enthusiastic support and drive that the new kids on the block, CAP Ciudad de Murcia have so far exhibited – it may once again come from their own backyard, rather than the city down the road.

- By Stuart Howard-Cofield.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Would your football club be better run as a co-operative?

Supporter-owned Bayern Munich
are enjoying yet another successful
season. Photograph: Daniel Ochoa
De Olza/AP
 Source: The Guardian

 Co-operatives offer a sustainable model for football clubs - just ask Champions League finalists Bayern Munich

What's the point of a football club? If we look at the motives of its owners, we'd get some strange answers. It could be a millionaire's pension fund, a property development opportunity, a shot at a capital gain, a millstone, a tax dodge, an ego-trip, a nest-egg, a birthday present, a promotional tool, a political tool; the list is far from exhaustive.

No club was ever founded with this in mind, of course. They began life as genuine clubs, open to membership from the community of players, and later supporters, who had an interest in their success.

But over time – mainly for the need to raise capital to build stadia – clubs became companies, and lots of members gave way to a smaller number of shareholders. They coalesced over time and soon clubs were dominated by a small handful of people, most eventually becoming the private property of a single person.

This seems at odds with the true nature of the enterprise, which has an inherently public character. Football's magic is to take all the emotions that define what a club means to one fan and make it equate to those of every one of the hundreds, thousands or millions of people who share the same allegiance. Football serves a deep human need for community, and that – plus the unscripted drama of the game – explains its success. We love our clubs because of what they are, not for what they do for their owners or employees.

That's why a co-operative form is a perfect fit with football, because in a co-op economics flow from purpose, not the other way around. In Europe, co-operative and mutual ownership is commonplace, with almost a quarter of the top-flight clubs in UEFA's 53 member countries being owned and run this way. When Bayern Munich play in the Champions League final in 10 days' time, they will make it the 14th final in the past 21 years to feature a fan-owned and run club.

Here, though, the battle to bring the values and virtues of co-operatives to bear only really began in the past decade, starting in earnest with the formation of Supporters Direct in 2000.

The supporters co-operatives they set up have been slowly building their influence and now own the controlling stake in 25 clubs. The highest-placed is Brentford in League one. Sixteen more have a minority stake greater than 10%, while a fan is elected onto the board to represent fans at 46 clubs; Swansea City in the Premiership is the highest profile, with their fans co-operative owning 20% of the club and having lifelong fan Huw Cooze on the Board.

Swansea's success illustrates a problem facing supporters' co-ops; that they tend to make gains when clubs are in crisis. When the previous owners ran Swansea into the ground, fans got their break and purchased it alongside four local businessmen for a fraction of what it is now worth, because no one else was interested. All those other motives – pension fund, development and the rest – fade away, leaving only love and loyalty to drive prospective owners of last resort.

Where the club isn't in crisis (football's version of rude health), fans struggle to get the required liquidity quickly enough to beat rivals when existing owners look to sell up.

As a result, most experiences of fan ownership begin with a monkey on the club's back. Where they takeover, they do so with inherited debt. Where they form a new team to replace a liquidated predecessor (such as at Scarborough Athletic), they often start minus a ground, which will have been lost in the collapse of the old club.

But to see what can be done if a club can get past the problems, just look at Exeter City. Fans took on debts of £1m, but instead of labouring for years to pay them off, they drew Manchester United in the FA Cup and with their share of the attendance money, wiped those debts out in a stroke.

They've had the chance to build, rather than just deal with the mistakes of the past, and have seen the club achieve two of the five promotions in its history, finish as high as they ever have up the footballing pyramid and are enjoying a 60% increase in attendance. These are the good old days for the club.

But they also embody the biggest problem supporter co-operatives face. Like all co-operatives, they must be profitable, since their only source of revenue and capital is their members. This marks them out as oddities in the world of football, where clubs are run as extensions of their owners' interests and underwritten by their private wealth; making a surplus is a nice idea, but one rarely achieved.

This is particularly ironic given the way the existing powers view fan involvement in clubs. I've been in offices in the Premier League and Football League, where executives have cartoons on the wall showing how "unreasonable" fans are: speech bubbles from the terraces call for all the best players in the world to be signed with scant consideration for the financial implications.

It was a point made in more formal ways than cartoons. Many chairmen told Supporters Direct that fan involvement would lead to financial catastrophe. Coming from people in charge of a sector in which more than 50% of its professional business have become insolvent since 1992, this is more than a little hypocritical.

But the ruinous economics they have presided over is rigged against people who want to be sane and sustainable, like supporters co-operatives must be. Players' wages bear less relationship to what the clubs employing them can actually afford on their own generated trading income, and rely instead on subsidies from their wealthy owners.

In other co-operatives, seeing other businesses act stupidly is good news, for virtue has its own reward. Not so in football, where sitting out the madness isn't an option. That isn't from unreasonable fans demanding success but from them being disenchanted with the idea that a weaker squad's outcome for the season is already decided before a ball has been kicked.

For many of the clubs where fans call the shots, this isn't a problem – yet – as they play in the lower leagues of the football pyramid where their larger fanbase more than compensates, but the ultimate success of fan co-operatives depends on the game being made safe for people who think it's a good idea that clubs don't lose money hand over fist.

After years of opposing any regulations to help bring this about, there's been a sea change in attitudes, as UEFA's imposition of such rules has demonstrated the power of regulatory bodies to act. That, combined with the size of debts in the midst of a recession, has concentrated minds, and across all four divisions there are measures in

place to bring costs under control. These new rules still have many loopholes, and there is a real issue that the changes won't come about quickly enough for co-operative clubs, whose ability to keep pace by generating new income from members is more constrained in a recession.

To really change the face of football will take more than waiting for basket cases to finally come into fan ownership. Their commitment to openness, sustainability and community engagement should compel more active support from the game's authorities. However, their position of "ownership neutrality" is in reality to be against it, given the impediments it faces. Real support will be needed from government.

The coalition government took office with a pledge to "encourage co-operative ownership of clubs by supporters", and for a time there were encouraging signs that there might be genuine progress. The DCMS select committee published a report endorsing, amongst other things, fan involvement in clubs and on boards. Yet despite initially agreeing with the report, the government then pronounced itself satisfied with a response from the game's governing powers that pretty much ignored all of these ideas.

Politicians have been comfortable with willing the ends of fan ownership, but if it is to really take root in the UK, like in so many areas, they need to will the means, even if that means going beyond their generation-long stance of non-intervention in the economic sphere.

In the meantime, the biggest hope comes from the community shares scheme used by FC United of Manchester. The club, formed by fans of Manchester United disgruntled not just at the Glazer takeover, which saw their loyalty "monetised" to pay for the leveraged buyout by their absentee owners.

Underpinning the club was a new vision of what the point of a football club was, one much more in keeping with the founding ethos of the game and the community basis of clubs.

They were successful in raising £1.6m from 1,400 fans, an impressive feat at any time, not least in the current economic climate. While their success is built on years of engagement with fans, which many fans' co-operatives need to emulate, it does hold out an intriguing and co-operative outcome.

Having been subject to flirtations with the stock exchange and securitisation, football clubs are now in a position where serious investors know they will lose some or all of their money. Banks had come to the same judgment years ago, with football being one of the few areas in the years leading up to the crash where they seemed to show restraint in who they lent to.

The main sources of capital – or revenue subsidy as it is in most cases – is wealthy individuals. But for every top-flight club on the verge of global exposure through the Champions League who might have many suitors, there are so many more who will appeal only to their fans.

It's been said that every revolution is the act of kicking in a door that's already rotten. If fan co-operatives can get their act together, and raise their capital together, fan co-operatives might find the door offers even less resistance.

Dave Boyle 9th of May, 2012.

Dave Boyle worked for over 10 years at Supporters Direct from its
inception in 2000, the last 3 as their CEO. He is now a writer,
researcher and consultant, and co-operative development worker who
blogs at and is on twitter as @theboyler