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Funded by Power to Change and Architectural Heritage Fund. In partnership with Locality

The Manchester football club which is profiting from fan-ownership

News item

23rd April 2021
Co-op development
Football players celebrating

Wythenshawe AFC played a Manchester United team featuring Bobby Charlton in the Altrincham Cup in 1956. The two Manchester clubs are just a few miles apart – but have followed very different paths since that one and only meeting.

In a week when the United hierarchy were forced to make a humiliating apology following national and worldwide opposition to the doomed European Super League – from fans, football leagues, governing bodies and even national governments - Wythenshawe AFC has been celebrating. The club, whose senior men’s team operates some nine divisions below the top tier, has raised almost £100,000 to support its clubhouse extension, junior pitch drainage, car park improvements and other infrastructure developments at its Hollyhedge Community Stadium. 

Wythenshawe AFC is a community benefit society. It is owned by the community - by the fans - and run for their benefit. Wythenshawe AFC, which boasts a thriving junior section, is owned and controlled by the very people who love the club. Man Utd could learn a lot from how their non-league neighbours are governed and operate.

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“Three years ago I’d be looking out at a field – there’d be nothing here. Now we’ve a £1.2 million facility that’s supported by the whole community.”
– Wythenshawe AFC club chairman, Carl Barrett
Wythenshawe Football Ground

The Wythenshawe community has been the driving force behind the club's most recent successful fundraising mission. Over £50,000 was generated through a community shares offer. Community shares is a popular approach to raising finance, in which local people invest often small sums of money to become co-owners of vital local enterprises – from local pubs and shops to pools and football clubs. 

Mr Barrett said: “I was concerned about launching a share offer with everything that’s going on, but to receive the amount of support we received is incredible. The investors are now the owners – and it’s a community that will only grow bigger. What we are building here is sustainable.”

The club raised a further £47,000 matched funding - signed and sealed this week (w/c 19 April, 2021) via the Community Shares Booster Programme. Led by Co-operatives UK, with funding from independent trust Power to Change, the Booster Programme has helped communities across the country to own, develop and save much-loved community assets through match-funded investments.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has called on the government and football's governing bodies to take a look at clubs like Wythenshawe AFC. 

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“In an ideal world all football clubs would be supporter-owned co-ops! Congratulations to Wythenshawe AFC on their long-standing commitment to football and the community at a grass roots level and on their successful community shares offer. We need to build a movement to 'reclaim our game' at the top and the bottom of the football pyramid.”
– Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham

Co-operatives UK CEO, Rose Marley, said: “What an incredible success story this is. Wythenshawe AFC has shown football fans you can do this. You can take ownership of your club. You can use community shares to generate funds. It’s future-proofing as well, by putting control in the hands of those most invested in the long-term success of their club.”

Since 2012, £155 million has been raised by more than 100,000 people to support over 440 different enterprises through community shares. Some 92% of businesses that have raised finance with community shares are still trading today.

What are community shares?

Learn how community benefit societies are raising funds through community shares
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Less than 10 years ago, community shares were almost unheard of. Yet since 2012, £155 million has been raised by 104,203 people supporting more than 440 vital businesses – an impressive 92% of which…
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