FC United of Manchester: Community and Politics amongst English Football Fans

  • George Poulton

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is an ethnographic study of fans of FC United of Manchester, a new football club set up by supporters of Manchester United in the wake of the Glazer family takeover at Old Trafford in 2005. It focuses particularly on the importance of ideas of 'community' and 'politics' to understanding the club. In doing so the thesis sets out supporters' motivations for supporting FC United and how these have impacted on the form the club takes and supporters' relationships to FC United. In this thesis I analyse FC United as both a significant development within English football and as an important form of contemporary collective action with wider social significance. I show how FC United was formed within a broader context of political and economic transformation, a 'neo-liberal turn', within football and more generally within England, and, indeed, across many parts of the world. My argument is that the formation and continuation of FC United has involved the thinking through, debating of and engagement with particular ideas and notions of 'community' and 'place' and of 'politics' and 'political activism' in the light of this shifting wider context. As such the thesis sheds light on contemporary articulations and manifestations of these phenomena and how they may become implicated in collective action within football fandom and beyond. In doing so, it also gives insight into the social implications of the wider political and economic changes in which FC United is enmeshed. Thus, the thesis makes an important contribution to social anthropological knowledge by showing how an ethnographic study of FC United can yield new understandings of how significant recent political and economic changes are both socially understood and contested through collective action. Furthermore, the thesis makes a significant contribution to social scientific understandings of English football fandom by giving a deep ethnographic insight into how some fans have understood and responded to recent changes in the political economy of the game and into the dynamics underpinning an important new form of protest and collective action amongst English supporters.The thesis is structured in three parts. Part One sets out the contextual background of the research, first by discussing the methodological approach adopted and then by analysing the long-term historical context in which FC United emerged. Part Two focuses on the importance of 'community' and 'place' to understanding FC United's current form and supporters' motivations for supporting the club. Here 'community' is shown as having multiple meanings and manifestations with the context of FC United, while the significance of 'place' to FC United is analysed as lying in supporters symbolic and imaginative understandings of Manchester and what it is to be a Mancunian. Part Three presents an understanding of what is politically at stake for FC United fans beyond the immediate sphere of football fandom before assessing the chance that the club may become part of a larger movement within football aiming to bring about supporter ownership at all clubs.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSarah Green (Supervisor) & Jeanette Edwards (Supervisor)


  • Football
  • Social Anthropology

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