THOSE who describe themselves as fiscally challenged would like to test the theory that money doesn’t buy happiness.

In the world of football, having bag loads of cash can buy you a football club, the world’s best players and on occasion a trophy or two. But happiness? Well, that's up for debate.

No matter how much you have hidden away on your tax-exempt offshore bank accounts, buying a club’s soul, the very essence of why a team exists in the first place, is incredibly difficult. Indeed, a club can lose what it once stood for once some owner comes in the door with a plan to make himself famous and a profit.

This is why FC United of Manchester came to be. It is why ten years on from their formation, which came together because a sizeable group of supporters turned away from the Glazer owned multi-national company, which to their mind had utterly lost what the club was all about, they are an example of how a club should be run.

The English Premier League is worth billions. Next year’s TV deal will, it is estimated, double the income of many clubs who are already disgustingly rich. There is little money in Scottish football so it is a natural thing to look south with envy.

However, all that glitters is not gold. Far from it. It’s less than a tenner to watch FC United of the National League North at their new and impressive home of Broadhurst Park. The wait is a minute at most.

The club has soul, is punk to its core and as one of the banners which hangs permanently from a terrace says; “Making Friends Not Millionaires.” What's not to like?

The purpose of my visit to FC United was to see what lessons if any could be learned from our own clubs in terms of what they offer to the fans. Lots of lessons was the answer to that one.

However, it was impossible, as much as anything else, not to get caught up and buy into this fan owned and run club, where everyone plays a part and unlike the big clubs of the Premier League, where it is seemingly all about money, this is about football and community. As it should be.

“Our club has a clear purpose, and I think the purpose of football has been lost a little bit in the dash for cash,” says Andy Walsh, now FC United general manager and former secretary of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association.

“The sense of purpose has certainly been lost. Because so many clubs at the top have chased the money, clubs further down the pyramid have less opportunity for, say promotion, because there are limitations because the gap is so great.

“Those predators, as I call them, pray on desire for success, you want to be successful in football. Every time the players cross that white line, we want them to win the match. But it’s about more than that.”

Walsh used to have close contact with Sir Alex Ferguson who in his autobiography admits Walsh told him to resign when the Glazers took over. They don’t talk any more.



The bold Fergie, when asked about the breakaway club in 2006, said: “I'm sorry about that. It is a bit sad, that part, but I wonder just how big a United supporter they are. They seem to me to be promoting or projecting themselves a wee bit rather than saying, ‘at the end of the day the club have made a decision, we'll stick by them.’ It's more about them than us.”

What a piece of nonsense. Graham Byrne, the club’s full-time groundsman, spoke to me about how he got involved when after he “left United.” A lot of folk talk like this, although many would say that the bigger United left them.

Alan Hargrave is a director who boasts that while on holiday in Orkney this year, upon walking into a “Star Wars bar” there was on guy in the middle with a FC United hat.

“He was a crab fisherman called Manchester Dave and he comes down twice a year to watch us,” Alan says. "We are getting everywhere and people do get it.

“Everyone here is a volunteer and they come along because they believe it is their club. An issue we have in football, and I know you have it in Scotland, is that one person comes in and owns the club. He isn’t interested in anything the fans say and never listens.

“Because supporters always turn up, these owners think they can do what they want because fans don’t desert their team. There aren’t many clubs like ours, but there are a growing number.”

A young man called Hairy Ben, his real name is Ben Hughes , covers every game for radio and is admirably passionate about what he is part of and recalls how everyone got this thing off the ground in the first place.

“In the early days when we were nomads and played up at Bury, it was belief and a bit of bloody mindedness, to be honest with you,” he said. “Obviously you don’t build a stadium like this while just going through the motions. You have to be driven and have some balls about you.

“Having this new stadium does throw up other challenges. Can we keep the DIY ethos when you have business plans, have to pay back the council and make sure you jump through the right hoops? Can you keep up that punk spirit, which does exist here? Only time will tell.

“As a supporters run club, what tends to happen is it is no longer about just what happens on the pitch. It becomes something bigger than that. We do want the team to do well, but because we live in the area, there is an outward perspective about the football.

“It’s not so much about making big signings or winning promotion. It’s more about is the club a good name, is it doing the right thing for the community, and because of that people come to the watch us.

“This club belongs to the city. It no longer a rich boy’s play thing.”

Ben is not sure about the club moving up a level or two. It won’t happen this season, but there are just one promotion away from the Conference and that brings new problems such as far more midweek games and TV getting more involved.

But with one member, one vote, you get the impression that FC United will cope with what is ahead and remain punk.

“I don’t have a massive problem with a rich chairman, but they are not going to be there forever and their money will be gone one day,” Ben said. “Clubs should always belong to the people.” Here, here.