FC United of Manchester officially open the turnstiles to their new home at £6.5million stadium Broadhurst Park in Moston tonight.
The sell-out crowd of 4,000 fans will welcome Benfica for a showcase friendly, marking the anniversary of Manchester United’s first European Cup triumph against the Portuguese giants 47 years ago.
Its dedicated members raised almost half of the money needed to finance the stadium, with the remaining finance coming from grants and funding.
The new stadium boasts a standard of clubs two or even three tiers above them in the English footballing pyramid (even free Wi-fi) with the most striking feature being the main stand which is wooden cladded. The panels are similar to railway sleepers and were chosen as a nod to the railwaymen who formed Newton Heath – later to become United.
The stadium will also act as a community ‘hub’ for Moston with an adjacent artificial pitch, changing facilities and medical suite.
FC started out in the North West Counties League, playing at Bury’s ground Gigg Lane and now the day has come for fans neutrals alike to marvel at this fairytale footballing story.
Formed 10 years ago by disillusioned fans following the takeover of United by the Glazer family some cynics claimed “it’ll be over by Christmas”, but the fan-owned club have made great strides in the lower divisions of English football ever since, with four promotions achieved since 2005.
After becoming champions of the Evo-Stik Premier title last season after their 1-0 win over Stourbridge, The Rebels have now moved up to the sixth-tier of English football and will be playing in the newly named National League North in the 2015-2016 season.
They have also become the UK’s biggest fan-owned club – even bigger than Portsmouth in the process. The Pompey Supporters Trust has 2,300 shareholders while FC have just smashed through the 4,000 barrier.
This news follows a great year for a number of Greater Manchester clubs with Bury and ‘The Class of 92’ owned Salford City claiming promotion to the third and seventh tiers respectively.
Benfica have been Portuguese champions a staggering 34 times and were beaten by United in the 1968 European Cup final. The Rebels will face their ‘B’ team, which lost to Barcelona in last year’s Uefa Youth League final.
This however won’t be the first game at the ground, as FC gave fans less than a week’s notice about a 60-minute match between present and former players as a test event two weeks ago – with around 3,200 turning up.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm tonight at Broadhurst Park, Moston.
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