I’ve made no secret of my feelings towards FC United of Manchester. I don’t like them. I don’t like this idea of fans who used to come to Old Trafford every week deciding to turn their back on the club.
Had FC United formed in 1999, with those fans turning their backs on the most successful club in England and Europe, then I’d have more sympathy for the cause. The principles that formed Sharedholder’s United and FC United were ever apparent in 1999. The ticket prices were going up, as they had been doing for years, we were bringing out new shirts every season, our fans were being ordered to sit or face ejection from the ground, and ‘football club’ had been removed from our badge. We were a money making enterprise.
Yet FC United was formed in 2005, following United’s worst season since 1989, with us finishing 3rd and winning nothing.
Of course, 2005 coincided with the Glazer takeover, but that harrowing incident only took place because we, the fans, allowed it to. The wake up call should have come when Rupert Murdoch started sniffing around. Shareholder’s United Against Murdoch was formed and his bid to take over the club was fought off. There were seven years between that failed takeover and the successful one of the Glazers, but what did we do? I am including myself in this statement. I, like most United fans, did sweet fuck all. Drunk off our success, feeling as though our team were invincible, World-beaters, I didn’t fear that some money bags foreigner would actually be able to buy our club.
That’s not to say there weren’t United fans working away, being sensible, trying to protect our club. Shareholders United was formed on May 16th 1999 with their aim to maintain the independence of Manchester United through ownership of shares by supporters of the football club. Brilliant idea.
As a novelty, my dad had been buying me shares at United every Christmas. I wasn’t going to make my fortune with them, but we had a fair few. It wasn’t a pre-cautionary action though, or a political statement, but rather for the enjoyment of claiming a stake in our club. We’d get the annual brochures talking about income and percentages, which we wouldn’t read, and didn’t think much else about it.
When Glazer owned 75.16%, SU were flooded with requests by fans to pour their cash in to a fund to stop Glazer. Had this action taken place over the seven years, between when alarm bells should have first started ringing and the iminent Glazer takeover, we’d have been laughing. But this didn’t happen. We sat back and allowed our club to be bought by some Yank who knows fuck all about football or United, by not taking enough prior action to stop it.
Are the people who watch FC all the founding members of SU? The fans who stood up from the word go, during the peak of our success? I imagine quite a lot of them are. In 2006, over 6,000 people went to watch FC United take on Great Harwood Town. But were these 6,000 people paying the ticket prices of six years before, when the club brought in massive increases and blamed them on Roy Keane’s contract? We were Champions of England and Champions of Europe back then, so it was worth paying it, right? In 2005, we’d won fuck all and everyone was saying our glory days were over, but it was only then that the principle of this money making franchise was too much to bear. Coincidence?
Football sold it’s soul to Sky Sports long ago, and to be a fan of a Premiership side means you’re going to have to fork out a lot of cash if you’re to go regularly. As our ticket prices have increased since the Glazers, as they did before the Glazers, it is understandable that people can’t afford £600+ a year for a season ticket. I certainly am not going to have a go at a local brickie who simply can’t afford that amount of money, of course not. But it does irk me when fans say they won’t step foot in Old Trafford anymore because of the prices, that they’re not prepared to line Glazer’s pockets. Considering that all the money we’re making at the moment has gone in to purchasing of new players, the pockets of the Glazers are less full than John Magnier and JP McManus’ ever were.
You can get a ticket in the Stretford End for any league match for £26. Don’t tell me the 6,000 fans going to watch FC can’t afford £26 once in a blue moon. Under 16′s can go to any league match, sitting in any stand, for £10. Don’t tell me you can’t afford to take your kid to Old Trafford these days.
You can see United play five times for the cost of an FC United season ticket. But then, FC United are playing in the Northern Premier League, so you won’t get to see your team play the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Roma, Liverpool, Lyon and Arsenal.
It’s not a problem these people have with Manchester United, if it costs too much, it’s a problem they have with modern day top flight football in England.
Take a look at these prices from clubs from the north and south of the country, with the differences in prices between their tickets and ours.
Cheapest match day ticket: £33 (B), £38 (A) +£12
Most expensive match day ticket: £66 (B), £94 (A) +£50
Kids: £13.50 (B), £18.50 (A) +£8.50
Cheapest season ticket: £925 +£464
Most expensive season ticket: £1,825 +£913
Cheapest match day ticket: £45 +£19
Most expensive match day ticket: £65 +£17
Kids: £17.50-£22.50 (depending on location) +£12.50
Cheapest season ticket: £650 +£189
Most expensive season ticket: £1,150 +£238
Kids: £330-£430 (depending on location) +£240
Cheapest match day ticket: £28 (C), £33 (B), £43 (A) +£17
Most expensive match day ticket: £43 (C), £53 (B), £75 (A) +£27
Kids: £15-£25 +£15
Cheapest match day ticket: £35 (for a Category B match), £45 (Category A) +£19
Most expensive match day ticket: £51 (B), £63 (A) +£15
Kids: Up to £23 (B), up to £34.50 (A) +£24.50
Cheapest season ticket: £615 +£121
Most expensive season ticket: £885 -£27
Cheapest match day ticket: £32 (B), £34 (A) +£8
Most expensive match day ticket: £34 (B), £36 (A) -£12
Cheapest season ticket: £700 +£206
Most expensive season ticket: £750 -£162
Kids: £345 +£155
Cheapest match day ticket: £26
Most expensive match day ticket: £48
Cheapest season ticket: £494
Most expensive season ticket: £912
Cheapest match day ticket: £23 (B), £36 (A) +£10
Most expensive match day ticket: £30 (B), £44 (A) -£8
Kids: £10 £0
Cheapest season ticket: £461 -£33
Most expensive season ticket: £582 -£330
Kids: £95 -£95
Cheapest match day ticket: £26 £0
Most expensive match day ticket: £37 -£11
Kids: £17 +£7
Cheapest season ticket: £361 -£133
Most expensive season ticket: £509 -£403
Kids: £88 -£102
So, what are the conclusions? For the price of the cheapest Arsenal season ticket, you could get to 35 games at Old Trafford, which is close to two seasons worth of games. For the price of Arsenal’s most expensive season ticket, you could go to 70 games at Old Trafford, which is close to four seasons worth of games. To get your hands on a Liverpool season ticket, you have to pay more than £200 more than season ticket holding fans sitting in the Stretford End. A ticket to see Middlesbrough vs Chelsea at the Riverside could cost you £11 more than watching United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford.
I want to reinforce the point I’m not saying that some United fans haven’t been priced out of getting a season ticket, because obviously that isn’t the case. The point I’m making is that the people who go to watch FC at the complete exclusion of going to Old Trafford can’t argue it’s purely for the money. Whilst still extortionate in places, United’s rises have been far kinder than a lot of other Premiership fans have faced in recent years. Yet those fans haven’t got to see their team win back to back titles, coupled with the European Cup.
If people no longer go to Old Trafford because of the principle, then they should have stopped going in the early 90′s, when United were one of the first clubs to change their kit on a yearly basis and brought in regular ticket price rises.
Whilst FC United can still boast attendances larger than most teams in the Conference, which is very impressive, they’re still some way short of the 6,000 they were bringing in during their first season. It was easier to abondon Old Trafford ‘on principle’ when we were winning nothing, just as it was probably fairly easy to fork out an extra few quid per match ticket to return to watch us play once we’d won the league again.
The price I pay for my season ticket is less expensive than the cheapest season tickets on offer at Anfield, the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, White Hart Lane, Upton Park, and probably a few other grounds up and down the country. As a fan of a Premiership club, I accept that I’m going to have to pay a lot to watch my team play, but the difference is, my ticket is cheaper than any ticket at the other top four clubs, and I get to watch the team which has the Premiership trophy and European Cup on display!
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