Some of the most interesting sports clubs are campaigning clubs. They thrill their fans, and they deliver real and positive change in their communities. Like many a general sports fan, I was delighted to congratulate FC United of Manchester on becoming Evo-Stik Northern Premier Champions. The club set up by fans in the wake of the Glazer take-over of ManUtd is now two promotions away from joining the Football League.
Owned and run by its members, FCUnited is a Community Benefit Society – everyone is a equal co-owner, holding one voting share. Profits from merchandise support club development. It is a proud Living Wage employer. It delivers adult education and training opportunities and partners with schools and colleges. Some major clubs deliver award-winning community initiatives (I’m a long-term admirer of Man City’s City in the Community scheme); FCUnited show it can be done with far less cash and equal or greater heart.
What FCUnited have done for football and sport more broadly is help drive a new, more radical agenda around our sports clubs, our love for them and their roles in our communities. Could their co-operative club model work for more UK sports clubs? Perhaps leading to home grown equivalents of the idiosyncratic and passionate multi-sport club St Pauli of Hamburg? Fan-owned, committed clubs, getting people active and skilled-up, entertaining us and changing communities. Now that would be game-changing.