2016. Future Football at FC United

“Future Football: a design for life”: Conference by The Football Collective at FC United

Preliminary Programme can be downloaded:


The game has never been more popular than it is today. The opinion of the fans within a stadium has moved from a post-match analysis on the radio, listening from home or in the car, into different modes of communication. Football is consumed and prosumed in both offline and online life. The places now range from discussions debated in pubs across tables, to within watsapp groups, on Facebook and through the multitude of football blogs – at the tips of our fingers. In fact fan groups are now merging the acts of consumption and production and generating businesses based around football. Furthermore, we have not mentioned the saturation of media productions available. Web 2:0 technology and global media have made football accessible again (albeit not the same as when you could bump into Peter Osgood at the height of his fame in a local pub in Windsor). Footballers have a range of social media platforms to engage with fans, referee’s have Twitter accounts and the Premier League now aim to deliver football and physical education is every English Primary School. Football is part of everyday participation. Yet behind the looking glass there are huge issues that will dictate its future. European economic downturns, policy driven austerity, the destabilising of the traditional European powerbase to the Global South, corruption throughout the game from the highest level to grassroots. These are the times that will dictate the path of its future. The purpose of “Future Football: a design for life”, is to discuss these issue, challenges and opportunities and as a group collectively debate this agenda and add an academic rigor to, perhaps only slightly, enrich the game and ensure it takes the moral inclusive path.

The conference does not set out to be a mainstream academic conference. But it is about discussing academic research that (i) is being proposed as a potential option for the collective group to understand an existing context or tackle an existing issue (ii) is being planned you intend to  undertake, for feedback on proposed methodological questions, (iii) has been undertaken, to share findings and gain insight and feedback on data analysis, representation, potential journal outputs or (iv) has been published, to share findings and discuss future research needs. Importantly, the conference aims to help generate a collective critical mass to support the academic study of football.

The conference should be about moving forward and creating collective action and collaboration, whether on referees, players and agents, policy, funding, pitches, stadia, finance, management, governance or playing styles and more. Essentially the conference should be grow organically in terms of agenda and discussion. The conference is designed to offer opportunities for all to present research, research ideas, potential projects, innovative methods of data collection or public engagement. The agenda is very much set by the group.


Further details are below, but if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us via email: Dan Parnell d.parnell@mmu.ac.uk or Paul Widdop p.widdop@leedsbeckett.ac.uk



The aim of the conference is to bring together football researchers, academics and students from across the disciplines to share research findings, interests, stories, methods and to develop better research and collaboration across the collective. The conference will also host guests from outside of academia, including journalists working in football and practitioners from the football industry.

We invite you to join us at Broadhurst Park, the home of FC United. in Manchester, on the Wednesday 30th November 2016, to take in this lively football city and discuss the current issues in the game.


How did we get to this?

Over a past few years, a few like-minded colleagues have benefited professionally and personally from collaboration and friendship created through a shared interest in understanding football. The conversation has always been football in society, covering sociology, business, management, governance and policy from grassroots to elite. We hope the conference will compliment existing events offering a place for researchers to build close connections, access support and collaborate.

This group, including Peter Millward, Jamie Cleland, Anthony May, Danny Fitzpatrick, John Hayton, Joel Rookwood, John Hughson, Mark Doidge, Paul Widdop and Dan Parnell began to discuss ways to replicate this network to help others, especially PhD students and early career researchers.  Without setting anything in stone the group wanted to create something that:

  • Brought together a group of like-minded academics, researchers, friends
  • Helped progress the football agenda, doing more interesting and stronger projects, working together
  • Created a place to collaborate, to showcase research and insight, to debate issues and to help others

Nothing too ambitious, just something that we have not found elsewhere. The collective would hopefully then create its own agenda and action on football over time.

Over the past few months the collective has grown. The group is not closed and is open to new members with the proviso that you have a research interest / activity in football and a commitment to supporting critical debate in football and supporting others on their own journey.

The two aims of to achieve this is to (i) deliver high quality events and to show case best practice and (ii) help share academic peer reviewed research in an accessible and understandable format for all on the site, which includes:

  • Share evidenced based commentary on football issues
  • Disseminate peer reviewed research on football
  • Open debate around key issues in related to football


Where are we now?

The website is up and running and we are accepting blogs on the above and growing the collective board to expand the reach and potential impact of the network.

We have also developed our first event: “Future Football: a design for life”, which we hope to offer a quality, supporting environment to engage in genuine conference.


Future Football: a design for life: a conference by The Football Collective


Download the preliminary programme: Future Football: a design for life (preliminary programme)

How to submit and/or register


If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Dan Parnell (d.parnell@mmu.ac.uk) or Paul Widdop (p.widdop@leedsbeckett.ac.uk) via email.


The cost for the conference

The conference is a product of The Football Collective and there are no additional or add-on costs to the conference other than facilities, refreshments and potentially some travel costs for presenters or participants to Broadhurst Park, the home of FC United. To that end, the conference is not-for-profit and will remain that way, with income and expenditure being provided online post-conference to ensure a transparent process. We have discussed and deliberated the cost the conference with members of the collective board to ensure we are able to meet the needs of every potential guest. The cost will include morning and afternoon refreshments and lunch during the day. The evening meal is not included.

  • PhD students (without funding): Free.
  • Non-waged: £20.
  • Students (with funding): £30
  • The Football Collective Members: £30.
  • Non-members: £40.

With our calculations we gather that within the above brackets some people may have financial challenges in terms of the conference fee and/or travel. We would ask you to adopt a pay-what-you-can approach and were assistance is needed, we as a collective (dependent on registrations and finances) we would be happy to discuss ways in which the collective can support. Do not hesitate to drop Dan Parnell a confidential email (d.parnell@mmu.ac.uk). Any additional funding will be donated to the Homeless World Cup organisation.


Please use the link below to register:

See our Eventbrite page here. This will be open until mid-November. 

Location and travel

We are pleased to host the first ever Football Collective event at FC United. The brackground to FC United: The club set up in protest to Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United’ is a statement often used to describe FC United. But while there is no doubt that FC would not have happened without the American invasion, it was the catalyst, the final straw, but not the sole reason.

The material theft of a Manchester institution, forcibly taken from the people of Manchester, was the tip of a pyramid of destruction, with changing kick off times for the benefit of television, soulless all-seater stadia full of ‘new’ supporters intent to sit back and watch rather than partake in the occasion, heavy handed stewarding and ridiculously priced tickets propping it all up.

By May 2005 some supporters had had enough. The failure to prevent Glazer and repeat the successful repulsion of Rupert Murdoch in 1998 resurrected a ‘last resort’ idea from that previous campaign and the FC United wheels were put in motion. A group of individuals determined to continue the fight formed a steering committee and FC United of Manchester was delivered.

Critics of the idea argued that if supporters were disgruntled with the Premiership then why didn’t they go and support other local cash-strapped clubs instead of setting up their own? But that wouldn’t have been theirs would it? It wouldn’t have been United and it wouldn’t have been right to takeover another club after they had just been taken over themselves. Nor could they drift off in various directions and be lost to each other and maybe football forever. They wanted to maintain the momentum of the protest, to stick together, to sing United songs, to reminisce and bring back the good bits of the good old days. They wanted Our Club, Our Rules and they got just that, a member owned democratic, not-for-profit organisation created by Manchester United fans. A club accessible to all of the Greater Manchester community, dedicated to encouraging participation of youth whether it be playing or supporting and to providing affordable football for all.

Most recently, FC United have moved into Broadhurst Park, referred to as many as the home of fan-owned football. For further history and research on FC United see here.


Go to travel page for Broadhurst Park, the home of FC United here.

broadhurst park


Manchester has a range of low-cost and high quality hotels in the Oxford Road area, where we will be eating in the evening and a short taxi ride from Broadhurst Park, FC United.