Last week Trust PRO Niall Farrell travelled to Manchester to attend Supporters’ Direct’s Supporters’ Summit. FC United of Manchester kindly organised a tour of their new ground, Broadhurst Park, for Niall. Thanks to FCUM, in particular Des Lynch and Vinny Thompson, for facilitating Niall.
Walking up from the Metrolink tram stop towards Broadhurst Park, I recalled the last time I had visited FC United of Manchester – and what had changed for the club since then.
It was three years ago in Bury’s Gigg Lane, and FC were playing in the Northern Premier League against Chorley FC. Even though FC lost 1-0, it was a fantastic experience. The atmosphere was unlike anything I’d ever experienced – and you could really sense that there was a sense of community around the club.
Still, they were playing in Gigg Lane. This was another club’s ground – and had been that club’s ground for almost 120 years. To put it in perspective, this would be like Shelbourne moving to play in Bray Wanderers’ Carlisle Grounds. Bury – although in the Greater Manchester area – is a distinct town with its own history and community. Supporters going to FC United matches in Gigg Lane may have felt part of the FC United community – but the evidence that this was really Bury FC territory was never far from your eyes.
In contrast, Broadhurst Park is truly FC United’s ground. Situated in Moston – it’s about a 20 minute tram journey from the city centre. FC have been doing sterling work to steep themselves in the local community – as evidenced by the inclusion of community classrooms, conference areas and community gardens at the new ground. There are areas for beekeeping and growing vegetables, and supporters have even brewed their own craft beer that’s served in the club bar. Everything about Broadhurst Park seems to be angled at the community. That community is defined as being broader than the activity of going football – hence the big emphasis on participation – but make no mistake, those interested in football are well catered for.
Safe standing terraces, the subject of much discussion in the UK – although widespread in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, feature prominently. The main stand contains the aforementioned club bar, as well as the club’s offices and ticketing area. On the day I visited, there was a volunteer’s meeting being held in the bar, which comfortably held thirty or forty people seated on chairs.
The other stand was (partly) once Northwich Victoria’s Dane Bank terrace. 1874 Northwich, the fan-owned club formed in 2012 after the owner of Northwich Vics had been declared bankrupt, gave FC United their blessing to use the stand.
The ground will be shared with Moston Juniors, the local youth side – as well as FC United’s women’s team. As you enter the ground, there are astro-turf pitches for training on. There is also an empty patch of grass just in front of the ground. When I asked what that was being used for, I was told that it’s there for youngsters to have a kickabout on matchdays.
This probably exemplifies the FC United ethos as well as anything else. The club is about providing a space for the wider community, with football at its core. Other clubs in the Manchester area have statues outside their ground to show their tradition and ethos.
With FCUM, you get the feeling that no statues will ever be necessary. Broadhurst Park is the perfect monument.