FC United of Manchester see upsurge in membership as Red Rebels boss Neil Reynolds blasts European Super League plan
FC United of Manchester boss and former Bamber Bridge manager Neil Reynolds is convinced supporters of English football's now infamous six will turn their backs on their clubs if they continue with the intention to form a breakaway European Super League (ESL).
Manchester United Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur announced earlier this week the bombshell news that they have signed up to form the ESL.
Under the proposals, they will compete alongside six other European giants - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Athletico Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan - each year in a division which they can never be relegated from.
The announcement has been met with anger, disgust, disbelief from the rest of football and beyond.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to stop the ESL, while players, fans, officials from every spectrum of the game have been queuing up to lambast the plan, which seems intent on tearing up the long established history and traditions of the game.
Former stalwart non-league midfielder Reynolds, who enjoyed long playing spells for Clitheroe and Brig, is in a good position to observe the mounting groundswell of opinion against the ESL - not to mention the disgust amongst supporters at the greed of the six clubs’ owners.
He is the manager of NPL Premier Division outfit FC United - a club nicknamed the Red Rebels and set up 16 years ago by fans of Manchester United who had become disenchanted by American businessman Malcolm Glazer’s takeover.
Starting in the North West Counties League - the bottom step of non-league - FC United won several promotions to reach the National League North, although they suffered relegation in 2019 to their current position in the NPL Premier Division.
The club, who reached the first round proper of the FA Cup this season before the campaign was prematurely ended due to the Covid-19 crisis, have ambitions of going much further up the football pyramid.
And Reynolds, who is from Preston, revealed that there has been an upsurge in the club’s membership following news that Manchester United are one of the six clubs looking to break away and form the ESL.
“It’s been a devastating week for football if I am being honest,” said Reynolds, who is the principal of South Shore Academy and the former head of Fulwood Academy.
“There has been a surge, a boom, in membership of our club over the past 48 hours.
“But as a club we don’t feel any kudos for getting more fans because that is not what we are about.
“It’s just a sad day that football has come to this.
“Being the manager of this football club, in 2005 it broke away in protest at the Glazers.
“We have always welcomed new fans whether they may be former Manchester United fans or local people from the Moston area.
“I have no doubt that people will now want to support their local clubs and I urge them to do that.
“In one respect it’s good for clubs like ourselves, but on the other hand it’s sad that clubs at the top level have taken this stance.”
Reynolds believes that the opinions of players and managers of the top-six clubs will be in agreement with the rest of football.
Jose Mourinho was sacked this week as manager of Spurs, with speculation suggesting that he was not in favour of the ESL, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola have both questioned the wisdom of the proposals.
“I am disgusted about it all,” Reynolds said. “I know there are rumours about what’s happened with Jose Mourinho, but I listened to the interview with Klopp on Monday night and we have all heard what Guardiola has had to say.
“These billionaire owners of the clubs have very little regard for their managers - they are not even consulting their managers.
“For them to just take this decision, it’s pure greed and there’s no regard for football. It is disgraceful.
“We have got an established competition in the Champions League and then for fans to just find out on a one-line banner that this is going to be happening to their football club.
“It’s going to hike up season tickets prices; merchandising is going to cost more because there will be new kits, etc for this super league.
“You name it, and all that is going to happen here is the billionaire owners, who have no interest in the actual football club - they are not supporters - will make extra money.
“If you go back to the Glazers in 2005, the breakaway started because the good money the fans paid to the football club should have been given back in some way but what they found was that the cost to watch and support their team was just going up and up and up.
“What I can’t get my head around is that there has been absolutely no consultation.
“When I walked in at FC United as manager, it took a while for me to get used to it but the fans are consulted on everything.
“I am all for that because without fans, football is nothing. We have seen that over the past year with the Covid-19 situation.”
One of the beauties of football’s pyramid system is that clubs such as FC United or indeed Bamber Bridge could hypothetically rise to the very top of the game and that is something Reynolds is keen to protect.
He said: “This is such an elitist model and it won’t stand right with the fans.
“I hope we will now see local clubs in terms of fans going to watch them because they have lost that love and belief in the Premier League.
“I can talk about my old club Bamber Bridge - an extra 300 or 400 fans on their gates will be massive for them.”
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