FC United’s FA Cup Dilemma

By on Oct 26, 2010 in Latest, Non-League | 18 comments

When the dust settled after a weekend of FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round matches that were watched by over 40,000 people, one tie from the First Round draw stood out from the rest: Rochdale vs FC United of Manchester. It could hardly more apposite that FCUM earned their first appearance in the competition proper of the FA Cup in this of all months. The name of Manchester United has been dragged through the mud by the Wayne Rooney transfer debacle – an event that may have woken many up to the colossal lack of soul at the heart of Premier League football. The protest, meanwhile, goes on at Gigg Lane but such success brings new debates to be had for a club that is a protest against much of what is wrong with modern football.

It is hardly surprising that a cross-town derby featuring a club that is a story in itself should be attractive to television companies, and so it was that Rochdale vs FC United of Manchester was selected as the Friday night match to be shown live on ESPN at the end of next week. For many FCUM supporters, this created something of a dilemma. The concept of “3pm Saturdays” has become something of a rallying call for the club over the years, a protest against the sale of football’s soul to television companies. In December 2007, the club urged its supporters to boycott their Boxing Day league match at Curzon Ashton after the kick-off time was moved to lunchtime against the wishes of both competing clubs in order that it may be shown live over the internet.

What, some might wonder, is the difference this time around? Is the only difference between this and the Curzon match the amount of money being offered? Does the soul of FCUM have a price? The answer to this is less straightforward than a simple denounciation of a club selling its supporters and principles down the river, of course, but it won’t stop many from trying. In the case of the Rochdale match, FCUM had the option to turn down the television money and insist that the match was played on the Saturday afternoon of the First Round weekend if they wished. However, the trust board didn’t have long to make a decision. It was agreed with Rochdale that prices would be reduced to a very affordable £10 and that the game would take place on the Friday night. It’s not ideal and it has not pleased all of their supporters, but sometimes compromise rather than intransigence is the prudent way to run a show and this isn’t just about the money. It’s about the biggest match in the club’s history and about having the opportunity to show their club off on a national stage in way that not many members of the Evostik League Premier Division will ever get to.

The protest against televised football was more nuanced than just being against televised football and in favour of kicking off at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. It was about supporters, en masse, being inconvenienced upon the whims of a television company. The Guardian chose to show up what it considered to be inconsistency in the club’s policies in its Fiver column this afternoon, but they chose to overlook that both FCUM and Curzon objected to the match in December 2007 and that this match was moved to a time that was enormously inconvenient to supporters of both clubs for practically no return. FCUM are going to to get this sort of nonsense in increasing measures should they become more successful. There will be plenty that will seek to deny them any right to any sort of commercial activity and mis-quoting the club’s constitution, as if they alone should put their principles ahead of the well-being of their club. That this should even need to be stated about a club that has any principles at all at a time when the moral stock of English football could hardly be said to be lower, however, seems surprising to say the least.

So, the match will go ahead on Friday 5th November and some people will probably use this as a stick to beat them over the head with. None of this is particularly surprising. It may not have been an easy decision for them to make, but it was a decision that had to be made exceptionally quickly and, if enough supporters do feel strongly enough over this matter to wish to stand against the existing board at the next elections, they can do. That’s how democracy works. It seems unlikely, however, that General Manager Andy Walsh will be replaced any time soon. Most importantly of all, a robust, articulate debate on the subject is being had amongst the club’s supporters of the club itself and, if it sees fit, a resolution to the club’s constitution could be passed to state that they should never get involved in such a venture again. Their club, as they say themselves, their rules.

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  1. While being dogmatic over this issue would have been far better than some of the alternatives, this instinctively strikes me as pleasantly pragmatic. The Curzon Albion situation was just plain stupid; here, there were very persuasive reasons for this course of action, and the compromise of lower ticket prices is an excellent one.

    Also, this is probably a relatively convenient time for a local derby.

    (And finally, the quote about “the moral stock of English could hardly be said to be lower…” is missing the word “football”.)

    David Howell

    October 26, 2010

  2. Cheers, David, have updated the missing word.

    There are, I think, a few matches that will have reduced ticket prices to get some backsides on seats. I think that Brighton vs Woking, for example, might be £10 a ticket.


    October 26, 2010

  3. The key point is that here, the fans assented. They voted to accept the consequence of entering the ruddy competititon. Hands up which clubs have given their fans such a veto in the past? Thought so.


    October 26, 2010

  4. Both clubs have agreed to reduce the price from the normal £20 to £12 at Spotland for the game, not a tenner.

    Wimbledon and Ebbsfleet have agreed to only charge a tenner for their tie.


    October 27, 2010

  5. They’d lose more face in my eyes if they turned down this incredibly rare opportunity for exposure, significant money and club history.

    I think the FCUM fans can still hold their heads up high and they are not going back on what they stand for. I still respect them.

    I am aware that they campaign for 3pm Saturday kick offs, but that does not mean the media can compare a league game lunchtime kick off on Boxing Day to a Friday night FA Cup debut. They are very different in the eyes of fans.

    As a side note, the football leagues always claim that they do not allow 3pm Sat games to be televised as it would impact the live attendance. Surely an early FA Cup game between an underdog and an overweight is guaranteed to sell out? Why can’t they help out smaller clubs with a cash boost on a 3pm Saturday match in the FA Cup?


    October 27, 2010

  6. There are always people unconnected to this club putting in their 2penny worth from Sir in the PL to numpties in Runcorn. It has nothing to do with them.

    What we do is give our supporters a say in everything we do. We knew when we voted to take part in the FA Cup that if we progressed then a changed kick off time was always going to happen. We are trying to get away from the disrespectful way in which football is run in this country (see our recent Community Share issue) & would like as many people as possible to be part of a better way for football.

    Many say that clubs run by fans for fans can’t work or will fail. This is a lie borne out of their ignorance & kow-towing to the Man.

    We are successful both on & off the field – community work for the community (not for selling shirts); working with people on the very edges of society; giving purpose & meaning to disadvantaged people. PL clubs only seem to do this when MotD is in Town or to sell tat.

    We also have Community Days / free entry, name your price for ST, etc.
    The players talk to & sign autographs, come to events, stand their round in the pub.
    We have a saying here “you either get it or you don’t.” If you get it then welcome – if not ………..

    I DON’T HAVE TO SELL MY SOUL. (Not since I left MUFC anyway.)

    (FCUM Founding Member / Owner / ST Holder)


    October 27, 2010

  7. Coverage of our game would NOT be affected by a 3pm showing on tv – we want to be part of it. Besides if the FA / League had a backbone they’d tell tv to do delayed (as in we kick off at 3pm but isn’t shown until 3.30pm ending at 5.15pm.) football should always be ‘by the fans : for the fans’ NOT ‘by the FA : for tv companies.’

    Making Friends : NOT Millionaires.


    October 27, 2010

  8. @ Martin

    With all due respect – Rochdale are league 1 and are bound to have higher match day prices.


    October 27, 2010

  9. Chris – live 3pm Saturday games are frowned upon because of their potential effect on attendances at all games, not just the one being shown.


    October 27, 2010

  10. Wont pay Glazer or work for Sky , its ok ESPN’s Alright.

    Sold out?

    October 27, 2010

  11. Andrew, eh? When did I say they weren’t or didn’t?

    I have a lot of respect for Rochdale and what they have achieved recently on a tight budget in very competitive divisions.

    I was just correcting the article, that’s all. I expect Spotland’s accommodation is better value for £12 than Kingsmeadow’s is for that tenner too.

    BTW £20 is too much for third tier football too, especially in the North-West of England.


    October 27, 2010

  12. Prices confirmed as ten pounds for the terraces and twelve for seats, apparently. Still excellent value, and if I wasn’t at the wrong end of the country I would definitely be there.


    October 27, 2010

  13. Obviously every football club has it’s price FC United is no exception. Thought it would be a few more years before they crumbled though!


    October 27, 2010

  14. FC Utd’s manifesto:
    1. The Board will be democratically elected by its members.
    2. Decisions taken by the membership will be decided on a one member, one vote basis.
    3. The club will develop strong links with the local community and strive to be accessible to all, discriminating against none.
    4. The club will endeavour to make admission prices as affordable as possible, to as wide a constituency as possible.
    5. The club will encourage young, local participation – playing and supporting – whenever possible.
    6. The Board will strive wherever possible to avoid outright commercialism.
    7. The club will remain a non-profit organisation.

    Notice the lack of ‘We will never agree to be on TV’.

    The only one of those you could even attempt to make a reasonable argument for us to betray/sell out/whatever would be #6.
    However, due to the tv money, the ticket prices could be slashed by 40% – which I believe has to be done with the agreement of both teams according to FA cup rule – and which helps to ensure FC’s ticket prices can remain low for seasons to come, constitutes “outright commercialism”.
    “Common sense” if you ask me.

    And if the majority of FC’s membership disagrees, then see #1 and #2…


    October 28, 2010

  15. However, due to the tv money, the ticket prices could be slashed by 40% – which I believe has to be done with the agreement of both teams according to FA cup rule – and will help to ensure FC’s ticket prices can remain low for seasons to come. I don’t think this constitutes “outright commercialism”.

    Is what I meant!


    October 28, 2010

  16. Dear twohundredpercent:

    Please add the word “think” into my post after “I don’t”.

    Then please don’t allow me to post this late again.

    Thank you.


    October 28, 2010

  17. I think FCUM fans will have to sit anyway (not that they will!) according to their OS:


    I presume the tenner is if you want to stand on Spotland’s home terrace.


    October 28, 2010

  18. “What we should pause to remember, however, is that FCUM supporters, should enough of them be sufficiently outraged by the decision of the democratically elected Trust Board that runs the club on their behalf” – what should we remember?


    November 6, 2010


  1. FC Uniteds FA Cup Dilemma « Scissors Kick - [...] “When the dust settled after a weekend of FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round matches that were watched by over …

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