International Friendly Match
Broadhurst Park, Manchester
Manchester is perhaps one of Britain’s main urban centres of protest. It was here in this city during 1819 that one of the most defining protests in British history occurred. Nearly 80,000 pro-democracy protestors gathered in St Peters Fields to protest at unemployment, the Corn Laws and famine. History now remembers that protest as the Peterloo Massacre with death and injury coming due to the mass violence that ensued.
Public protests continue almost daily in the face of the great decisions of our time even in Manchester. On the day of this friendly tie, a huge rally was mobilised in protest at Donald Trump’s Presidential election win. In the UK almost daily we have witnessed the continued protests daily as regards the outcome of the EU Referendum.
It has to be acknowledged that neither F.C. United of Manchester or Austria Salzburg grew out of violence, death or suffering but both can rightly be regarded as ‘protest clubs’ born out of anger and rebellion.
Where better for these two teams to meet than in Manchester?
FC United of Manchester grew out of opposition to the American ownership of Manchester United. The club was founded in 2005 by disaffected supporters of the club who objected with dissatisfaction to high ticket prices at Old Trafford but the catalyst were the new American owners. Malcolm Glazer had acquired ownership of United in a £790m takeover between 2003 and 2005. The takeover was protested by a large section of United’s fans due to the financial concerns of the purchase and the club being simply another arm to his portfolio of sporting interests.
At the current time FC United are the largest fan-owned football club in Britain; a community benefit society and a club that exists on a ‘one member one vote’ basis. After a period lodging at Bury, they now have a modern stadium called Broadhurst Park located in Moston, North Manchester.
From small beginnings out of protest the club have developed a very sustainable community business model and attract the second highest crowds in non-league football. The club creates pathways for both male and female players engaging the surrounding community in the excellent facilities. Moreover, the club encourages new participation in football amongst other often marginalised groups such as the disabled or elderly.
After initially entering the North West Counties Football League Division Two the club have managed to secure consecutive promotions and now find themselves in the National League North; a division just two levels below League Two.
Austria has seen its fair share of football clubs fall by the wayside in the face of a corporate takeover or financial ruin. FC Blau-Weiß Linz was founded in 1997 and adopted the traditions of the defunct club FC Linz which due to financial difficulties had dissolved. Grazer Athletiksport Klub meanwhile was reestablished in 2012 as Grazer AC after the former Grazer AK was dissolved. On 14 March 2014 Grazer AC was considered to be a continuation of the original “GAK” in agreement with its umbrella association making a ‘phoenix’ club.
Austria Salzburg was formed in 2005 by some supporters of the original SV Austria Salzburg club. The original club was formed in 1933 but was subject to a takeover by the Red Bull company in 2005. They renamed the club FC Red Bull Salzburg and changed the club colours to a white and red.
Just as FC United grew out of anger at the American takeover traditional fans of Austria Salzburg were angered at the corporate takeover by the energy drinks company. A group of supporters known as the “Violet-Whites” fought to preserve the 72-year-old traditions of the original club and on 7 October 2005, the fan groups of Austria Salzburg successfully registered the old club’s original name “SV Austria Salzburg” and the old club emblem.
For the second half of the 2005–06 season SV Austria fielded a unified team with the football section of the PSV Schwarz-Weiß Salzburg, which played in the 1. Salzburg Landesliga the fourth tier of Austrian football. But at the end of the season, the PSV members voted against continuing the link. Thus, the Violet-Whites formed a completely new team, which entered 2. Klasse Nord, the seventh tier of Austrian football, for the 2006–07 season.
The first match of the relaunched SV Austria Salzburg was played on 29 July 2006 against Lieferinger SV, another Salzburg football club. SV Austria Salzburg won 6–0, and went on to win the championship and promotion to 1. Klasse Nord.
This was the first of four successive championships and promotions for the new SV Austria Salzburg. They won the 1. Klasse Nord in 2007–08, the 2. Salzburg Landesliga in 2008–09 and the 1. Landesliga in 2009–10. The latter secured the club’s promotion to Austria’s third tier of football the Regionalliga West for the 2010–11 season. The club finished fifth in the 2010–2011 season, and eighth in the 2011–2012 season.
In the 2014–15 season, the club was promoted to the First League, the current second tier of Austrian football by winning the Regionalliga West but were subsequently relegated again.
With the marketing strategists of Red Bull pushing new colours for Red Bull Salzburg and the club dominating at the top of the league, a new club logo and a new Red Bull Arena stadium was built. Essentially Red Bull Salzburg sees itself as a new club without a long term history or archive although many fans of Austria Salzburg debate these motives feeling its history was ‘stolen’.
The true Violett-Weiß traditions of the Austria Salzburg club are continued in the weekly fan activities even at the relatively low level of third division Austrian football. These tradition-conscious choreographies and an anti-Red Bull signature campaign surround the chanting at nearly every game of the club.
As regards this game the Austrians had called this friendly Testspiel im Mutterland des Fußball on its website. Unfortunately, the Austrian club came up short on the field as FC United ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in what was an international friendly born out of shared foundations.
The game was watched by a crowd of 1,562 who turned out to watch FC United host the fellow supporter-owned team. But around 300 fans made the trip from Austria and it was they who created a great atmosphere at one end of the stadium.
Overall the event was a great advert for fan ownership with both sets of fans mingling both during and after the game. The game was played in good spirit and coincided with a beer festival that was enjoyed by those that congregated.
The future looks bright for FC United although how far they can go up the English league ladder is hard to predict since it is at this level (National League) that things become highly competitive. Fellow clubs Salford City also have big hopes and the ambition of league football further up the English divisions.
FC United of Manchester is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by football fans with ideas and motivations. Out of the initial stages of protest has emerged a sustainable football club with an identity that is well known and based on a progressive community-based model.
See images here