The power of the football fan
Modern day football is one of the most loved sports in the world, however for some football fans the modern game has seen their club completely destroyed.
However the football fan is one of the most unique specimen in human kind, and if willing, will not let their beloved football club disappear.
One of the most famous cases of football clubs that simply will not die is AFC Wimbledon. The club was founded in 2002 after the relocation of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes.
The Dons fans were appalled by the decision from the new owner Peter Winkleman and the FA’s acceptance to let the club move up the M40, many fans felt that the move no longer represented the clubs legacy or traditions resulting in the forming of a new ‘phoenix club’.
The club began after an incredible 200 people turned by for trials to be a part of the first ever squad which would start their new life in the ninth tier of English football.
The life and transformation of AFC Wimbledon has not been short of miraculous and ten years after the formation of the club they are in the football league. In doing so they became the first club to be formed in the 21st century to get into the football league.
The club have achieved five promotions in nine seasons, reaching from the Combined Counties League to League 2. The only other club to achieve this achievement was Rushden & Diamonds who are now dissolved.
During the run several records were made, they set the longest record for unbeaten games in English senior football. Between February 2003 and December 2004 they went 78 games without suffering defeat.
Manager Terry Brown became a true club legend as after the second attempt AFC Wimbledon were promoted into League 2 after beating Luton Town in the conference play-off final on penalties.
Current manager Neal Ardley, a former player of the original Wimbledon side, was appointed after the departure of Terry Brown.
FC United of Manchester are another side that has been set up by a group of fans. It was formed in 2005 after fans opposed the takeover of Manchester United by American businessman Malcolm Glazer.
In their inaugural season they won the North West Counties Football League Division Two, which was followed by more league success in Division One. The year after that during the 2007/08 season they finished second of the Northern Premier League Division One North but were promoted through the play-offs.
The club currently play at Bury’s Gigg Lane and after applying for planning permission to build their own ground in which they will move into for the beginning of the 2013/14 season. They are currently playing in the Northern Premier League Premier Division and narrowly missed out on promotion after losing in the 2010/11 play-off final.
Whether a fan donates £1000 or £1, they have the same say in the way the club is run. Issues which can be voted for include the kit design, season ticket prices and who sits on the board. The FCUM manifesto states :
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.
What the formation of the clubs has achieved in rebelling from the modern day owners of their football club, is that the side is all about the fans.
One of the more recent ‘phoenix sides’ to be formed is that of Chester Football Club in 2010, formed by fans after the winding up of Chester City F.C.
Following a trend of the formation of new clubs they won consecutive promotions from the Northern Premier League Division One North in their first season backed up by success in their second which took them to the Conference North.
The death of Chester City F.C was down hugely to the ownership of Stephen Vaughan who run the club into the ground due to his ‘dodgy dealings.’ Over the years the club and the fans battled against salvation and in the end lost as the club’s gates were shut in 2009.
Life under their new name has gone considerably well following expectation set by AFC Wimbledon of getting back up into the football league. With only two more promotions required until the football league beckons it would be foolish to bet against another team set up with the love and dedication of the fans, the people who matter to get their side into the football League.