In front of the stadium of FC United of Manchester is a woman in a striped shirt and on the phone. She speaks so loud that you can overhear in passing. The seventh-league player has just lost his FA Cup qualifier to Warrington Town 2-1, knocking him out of the competition before he even starts.
"We're not going to Wembley this year," the woman calls into her phone. The emphasis is on "this". As if to say: But next year maybe. Or the year after. Would be possible. The French free-thinker Eric Cantona even once said that the club could someday win the European Cup.
FC United of Manchester will not disappear so fast anyway.
It has long been more than the protest cell it was in the spring of 2005, when fans of Manchester United formed their own member-run club in response to the takeover by Malcolm Glazer. FC United made headlines worldwide. Meanwhile he has established himself. He built his own stadium and survived a few turmoil. Now the club needs to clarify how successful it wants to be in the future. And how much of his idealism he is prepared to give up for it.
A history in two parts
An hour before the game against Warrington sits board Adrian Seddon on the still empty grandstand and split the history of the club in two parts. "The first phase was when we were looking for a stadium, we were nomads, and when we got to our stadium, we suddenly had to pay bills and we got into the harsh reality," he says.
The world of the rebels
Since May 2015, Broadhurst Park is the home ground of FC United of Manchester. The stadium of the Siebtligisten holds 4400 spectators.
The Moston district is undoubtedly quieter than Old Trafford, where Manchester United plays.
Blanke Brust: In protest against the commercialization of football renounce the "Red Rebels" (ex-Jerome Wright) on a jersey sponsor.
The very big opponents were (apart from Benfica Lisbon for inauguration game) not in Broadhurst Park as a guest. The season highlights often include the first round matches in the FA Cup, as in 2015 against the then third-rate FC Chesterfield.
The game ended at the time 1: 4. Here, Wright has lost to Chesterfield right-back Jerome Talbot (left).
An association of fans for fans: Only if the supporters decide for it, would FC United of Manchester continue to open up to commercial football.
Until then, the rebel core remains the core of the FCUM identity. This is reflected not only in the decisions of the club committees, but also in the fan culture on the ranks.
The home games of the club appear on average a little less than 2000 fans. Thus, the Siebtligist finds more popular than many Regionalligisten in Germany.
On January 28, 2017, the "Red Rebels" received another club with United background in the National League North: Ex-professionals such as David Beckham, Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs hold most of the shares in the club Salford City, which is now in the fourth league has risen.
The club was homeless in the first decade, played in various amateur venues in Greater Manchester. In May 2015, he opened his own stadium, Broadhurst Park in the Moston district. More than two million pounds for the total of 6.3 million pounds (at that time 7.1 million euros) expensive construction contributed to the fans. The opening was celebrated with a friendly match against Benfica. It was a holiday for FC United, but also a day that revealed deep tears.
The program newspaper did not cost two pounds as usual, but 2.50 pounds. This is not really a drama, but for a club based on grass-roots democracy, transparency and the rejection of unrestricted commercialization, the price hike was a taboo. One too many.
Protests, cronies and resignations
The episode marked the beginning of the club's most turbulent phase so far. The first season in the new stadium was marked by protests from the members against the club's leadership, which in their opinion did not act on the values of FC United. They complained of lack of participation, cronyism in the allocation of posts and lack of communication. At the end of the season, a large part of the eleven-member board resigned.
"There were a lot of things that people were dissatisfied with back then, so it just needed a spark," says Seddon, one of the current two board members. The spark, that was the price increase of the stadium book. After that, everything went up in the air. According to Seddon, the club even went to the brink of insolvency. Meanwhile, the situation has stabilized. The FC United still has to pay off the debt of the stadium construction, about three million pounds, but is doing well according to Seddons statement.
One of the reasons for this is that the club is now taking more sponsorship money, for example via golfer advertising. The largest source of revenue with around 50 percent is still the matchday, so the ticket sales, the sale of beer and fries and fan articles. The average attendance is close to 2000.
Groundhopper from Germany visit FC United
You can see a mixed crowd in the stadium. Young hipsters and football retirees, families with children, groundhopper, also from Germany. In the game against Warrington, a few men are recognizable as fans of Dynamo Dresden.
As the 1. FC Magdeburg had a friendly match with the Bolton Wanderers in the neighborhood in January 2018, Magdeburg fans drank a few days before the bar in Broadhurst Park empty, as one still tells today. Stickers of FC St. Pauli are everywhere to see anyway. Also because of the ideological proximity to FC United.
Sporty things went in the first years only uphill, from the tenth to the sixth league. In the spring of 2019, the club has descended for the first time and plays since this season again siebtklassig. Has the model of the grassroots, anti-commercial fan club reached its limits?
The third part of club history
Board member Seddon says FC United are entering the next phase. "We have to decide what our long-term vision is, where do we want to go, what do we want to be?" He calls the third division AFC Wimbledon as proof that you can make it as a fan club in professional football. But it takes money. You have to make compromises.
For example, Wimbledon has a jersey sponsor. The chest of FC United is blank, as a symbol against commercial football. But that does not have to stay that way. Seddon says, "If fans ever want a jersey sponsor, then we get one, I do not think they want it, but in the end, they set the direction."
There has been some realism in the past few years with the Red Rebels. The club has learned to make pragmatic decisions. In other words, a jersey sponsor is more likely to win the FA Cup or the European Cup soon.