FC United plan Newton Heath move
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 26 March 2010
As the number of green and gold scarves around Old Trafford grows, FC United, the club founded in protest at the Glazers' management, have announced plans to return to where it all began and establish a new home in Newton Heath.
It was in the east of Manchester that the original club was formed by workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway 132 years ago. It was five years ago that a group of disgruntled fans formed FC United, who now compete in the Unibond Premier League. They currently play at Bury's Gigg Lane but aim to move to a new ground in Newton Heath by 2012.
The fledgling club are working with Manchester City Council to develop a £3.5m 5,000-capacity stadium on the site of the council-owned Ten Acres Lane Sports Centre. Mike Amesbury, of Manchester City Council, said: "We feel that this will have significant local community benefits and bring an iconic supporter-owned club to Manchester."
FC United attract an average attendance of just under 2,000 at Bury. The club have made steady progress through the non-league system since being set up. "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," said Jules Spencer, a board member of FC United. "The ironic thing is the decision [to found 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 Glazer regime is currently the focus of a number of protest groups, marshalled under the banner of the Manchester United Supporters Trust. They have so far attracted over 145,000 fans to their campaign, which has clearly struck a chord. On match days at Old Trafford the original green and gold colours of Newton Heath are becoming ever more apparent.
Meanwhile, the Red Knights, a diverse collection of bankers and financiers led by Jim O'Neill, the chief economist at global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs, are attempting to raise funds for a takeover. Manchester United have debts of £716.5m, which led to interest payments of £67m last year. On Wednesday, the club announced that they were to freeze season-ticket prices, having been heavily criticised for rises over previous years.
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