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FC United of Manchester fans to vote with their feet

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Fans of FC United of Manchester are ready to become the first set of football supporters in the country to boycott a game which has been shifted to suit television schedules.

FCUM’s Unibond First Division North clash with local rivals Curzon Ashton was due to kick off at 3pm on Saturday, December 29, but will now kick off at 12.45pm to allow the game to be shown live on the League’s own internet TV channel In-Vision.

Both clubs had informed Unibond League officials that they were strongly opposed to the switch, and had subsequently sent strong letters to that effect – but were completely ignored.

And that despite the fact that during the summer club representatives received assurances no game would be moved for TV purposes without the agreement of both participating clubs. As recently as November, the League Management Committee had also told clubs Saturday games would not be televised live.

Consequently, both the board and club officials of FC United have decided not to attend the fixture – and have requested that supporters exercise their power to influence such decisions, by also not attending.

FC United spokesman Jules Spencer told the FSF: “This is not a case of us trying to act all big time, because we recognise TV exposure and the revenue it generates are a very important part of football – but to renege on previous assurances, seek the views of clubs about a change to the kick off time and then disregard the views of the competing clubs and their supporters in this manner is completely unacceptable.”

“So the board of FC United is asking supporters to show their opposition to the League’s decision by not going to the game against Curzon Ashton. It is also regrettable they may suffer financially as consequence of this change to the kick off time, especially given that we had their support in opposing the switch.

“However the board feel that it is important that a message is sent to the League that the views of the match-going fan must take precedence and those fans should not be inconvenienced in favour of a potential Internet audience”

“All supporters are free to make up their own mind as to whether they support the call not to attend but the board of FC United believes that this particular issue is intrinsically linked to the disillusionment with top-flight football shared by many fans, that led to the formation of our club and as such a strong message needs to be communicated to the League.”

And the FSF’s TV Contracts and Revenue Distribution spokesman Mark Longden fully supported the proposed boycott, saying:

“It’s like the thin end of the wedge, but in reverse, if you like – because it’s certainly a first to see a football club representing the rights of its supporters by standing up against a TV company, and it sets a very positive precedent.

“We all recognise that TV has a major part to play in the game of football, but the balance has swung way too far in the TV companies favour – and too far away from the match-going, admission paying, regularly attending football supporter.

“That balance may take a long time to address, but I believe this is at least a step in the right direction – and, as the ancient Chinese proverb says, even a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

For those supporters choosing to back the boycott and seeking an alternative game, it is hoped that an ‘event’ will be staged at FCUM’s reserve fixture against Eagle Sports at Abbey Hey, on the same day at 2pm. 

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