Rebel club FC United of Manchester are celebrating after being named Football Foundation Community Club of the Year at the National Game Awards on Sunday.
The supporter-owned club, who play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, fought off strong competition from all other non-league clubs to take the prestigious title.
Andy Walsh, general manager of FC United, was delighted with the accolade and said that it shows the club, which are currently based at Bury’s Gigg Lane, are not just about football.
He said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive national recognition for the community work we do.
“Our approach is unique as is not all about FC United. We work with other community groups to access opportunities and that makes the whole community stronger.”
A panel of judges from The Non-League newspaper presided over a shortlist of candidates voted for by the clubs’ supporters before making their final choice.
Sam Elliot , a reporter and spokesman for The Non-League paper, said: “The judges are looking for pioneers in the community, a club that has given the most to youngsters and minority groups and one which thinks outside the box in terms of their community projects.”
He added that one initiative which caught the eye of the judges was ‘The Big Coat Day’, where fans were asked to bring an extra coat to the match to donate to a homeless person to help them keep warm through the winter.
Another factor in the club’s success was their community share scheme which raised more than £1.7 million to fund their new football ground, to be located on the Ronald Johnson playing fields in Moston.
“We’ve always said that if you involve supporters at the heart of a football club and give them responsibility and ownership of the club, that faith will be repaid in handfuls,” said Mr Walsh.
This decision, however, has divided community members in Moston, with some residents unhappy that public playing fields will be taken away from the whole community and others are concerned about noise and parking issues.