Fan ownership vs the multimillionaire chairman; but which is better?

RBFC ArticleIn 2005 the world of football was rocked by the news that shareholders in the world-renown Manchester United were to pull out of the Old Trafford outfit in disgust of the takeover by the Glazer family.

Months later, that same group of shareholders and fans joined up and created a new football club, one that we now know as FC United of Manchester.

10 years on and FC United have gone from strength-to-strength. The Reds, who are fully owned by their supporters, have gained four promotions in their relatively short life, three of which they were crowned champions.

Now plying their trade in the National League North, they are in step six of the footballing pyramid, five short of the illustrious Premier League and rivals Manchester United.

With such a quick rise to prominence from the depths of non-league football, FC United epitomises the question of what is better, a club owned by its fans or a millionaire chairman?

Take the reformed Chester FC for example. In 2010 the Blues were wound-up in a high court and the football club of Chester City was officially defunct.

This was the first time in 115 years that the city of Chester had been without a football club. However, similar to that of FC United, the fans of the Blues formed a fan owned group, known as City Fans United.

Within months of the former Chester City being acquitted, a new club had rose from the ashes thanks to the courageous attempts of its fans – a team we now know as Chester FC.

In its five year existence, Chester have won three promotions from the Evo-Stik Division One North and currently play in the National League. With high profile personnel such as Colin Murray, Pat Nevin and Perry Groves all on board to support the Blues, the club has gone from rags to riches, all thanks of course to its fans.

Other fellow fan-owned sides scatter non-league, including Wealdstone FC and 1874 Northwich. It is said that ‘without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty.’ Words which supporters of FC United and Chester FC can reflect on only too well and, with thanks to a group of passionate fans, their clubs are now thriving – without the multimillionaire chairman!

In contrast, a club which has a bottomless pit of money is guaranteed one thing; success. Whether it’s a team who are battling to climb the football leagues, or a side aiming to win the Premier League, a chairman who is willing to invest in a club is guaranteed a quicker return for their money.

But does fast achievement offer stability? Throughout non-league’s top flight there are a small number of clubs who have a wealthy playing budget. With Football League recognition the ultimate reward for winning the title from the National League, a lucrative move down the divisions may be a viable option for players, but does this help the club in the long-term?

These are questions which we will all answer differently. But, which is better, fan ownership or the multimillionaire chairman? That is the million dollar question.

(Article written on behalf of the Radcliffe Borough Football Club Magazine).

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