Like millions of people here in the UK, I’m a football supporter, and like hundreds of thousands of those, I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to go and watch my team week in week out as a season-ticket holder. However, unlike the vast majority of this demographic, I have the privilege of watching one of the most successful teams in the country at the moment – Manchester City Football Club. Bear with me here, there’s something here for supporters of all clubs I promise!
Along with a few good mates who are also season-ticket holders at Manchester City, I’m part of a group called MCFC Fans Foodbank Support (MCFC FFS). For the past three and a half years we’ve been collecting donations of food outside of our club’s weekend home games, come rain or shine, to support members of the local community in Manchester who are struggling to put food on their families’ tables.
Our overwhelming experience since starting MCFC FFS is that football supporters, despite being a broad church, are incredibly compassionate and willing to fight for a cause. Which is why when the FA set the kick-off time for the 2023 Community Shield at 5.30pm on a Sunday, fans decided to push back. This would have been the latest the fixture will ever have been played in 100+ years. And it would cause serious implications for 30,000 fans expected to make the 400-mile round trip from Manchester to Wembley and back in time for work on Monday, in a country not known for its well-funded or well-managed rail infrastructure.
Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription
MCFC FFS were asked by City fan group 1894, who are responsible for some of the brilliant flags and displays at home games, to join them in organising a show of defiance to this evident lack of consideration of supporters. We called for a boycott and attached a fundraiser to put our money where our mouth is, with all proceeds going directly to Manchester Central Foodbank. They are one of the biggest in the region, feeding 1,200+ people in our city each month. City fans outdid themselves and raised nearly £15,000 as it stands, which will cover Manchester Central’s food purchases for the whole of summer. In response, the FA changed the kick-off time for the first time in history, but only to a pitiful 90 minutes earlier.
The boycott proved to be a success. Our alternate screening of the game for Blues who didn’t want to travel sold out 500 tickets at an iconic Manchester gig venue, Band On The Wall. Only around 10% of the allocation for the Wembley fixture was bought by season-ticket holders like me, with many supporter’s club branches refusing to send coaches down for the fixture and hosting fundraisers for us, until the game went to general sale. Such is City’s recent success that casual fans filled the hole left by the core support and the game ended up a sell-out. But as heard on telly and reported by many in attendance, our absence left a gaping hole in the emotion, atmosphere, and competitive edge of the match, which can’t be replaced as easily as a ticket.