Football clubs Community Shares story comes to NI

Football clubs Community Shares story comes to NI

17 April 2012

One of the last decades’ most high profile sports stories will help illustrate the concept of ‘community shares’ to local community and voluntary groups.

FC United of Manchester (FCUM) Chief Executive Andy Walsh will be guest speaker at a special Belfast event on Friday, April 20, organised by the Building Change Trust and the Northern Ireland Co-operative Forum.

In a well documented and tumultuous battle, FC United of Manchester was born in the wake of the Glazier family’s takeover of Manchester’s Red Devils in 2005, with the goal of maintaining the integrity and spirit of the club.

Hosted at the Grove Wellbeing Centre in north Belfast at 11.00am, the case of the breakaway football club will inform the event on how a community successfully reacted to a large corporate initiative they felt was harmful.

Organised as a Community Benefit Society, FC United of Manchester now boasts over 2500 members and two community share issues have netted almost £3million to buy land for a new stadium and improve general facilities for players and spectators.

All club members are co-owners, holding a single share in the co-operative and FCUM received the Cooperative UK’s Excellence Award for cutting edge work with local communities in 2009.

Building Change Trust Administrator, Nigel McKinney, believes, “Community shares are one way of getting revenue into community initiatives and encouraging community ownership of local interests and assets.

“With reductions in funding from local government sources, the concept of community shares will become much more prevalent in the future.

“This seminar will help explain how community shares work and the Building Change Trust and the NI Co-operative Forum will offer practical examples of how this can be applied in Northern Ireland.

“We’re delighted that Andy Walsh will join us to give us the benefit of his experiences, along with Jo Bird from Co-Operative UK.

“Local views will also include Mark Langhammer from the Giants Park Stadium Initiative and Tiziana O’Hara from the Northern Ireland Co-operative Forum.”

Tiziana O’Hara urged interested groups to attending, saying; “Although there are a range of different financial resources available for communities, including grants, traditional bank loans and community bonds, community share investment provides an opportunity for direct ownership and control over assets and local services.

“The community share concept is exciting and transformative as it unlocks funds alongside community involvement and engagement.

“There is an appetite in Northern Ireland for looking at alternative ways to finance and develop community activity and we think this seminar will help with that”.

Locally, Crusaders FC, based on Belfast’s Shore Road, recently issued a bond scheme to its members and the Giants Park Stadium Initiative has now provided an opportunity for ground-breaking cross-community work between the club and its neighbours Newington FC.

Ms O’Hara continued; “It should be stressed, though, that community shares may offer solutions to a range of community needs and not just those faced by local sports clubs – the entire community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland can learn from these approaches.”