A Fan’s Club? Alternative Freedom Club? Ask For Chips?

First came AFC Wimbledon. Then, FC United of Manchester. Now, not to be left behind, Liverpool supporters are launching their own grassroots “alternative” club into England’s netherworldly non-league pyramid. Judging by the preliminary reports, AFC Liverpool will, fittingly enough, be sort of like the Beatles to FC United’s Stones: roughly similar historical circumstances, less angry response. Both Manchester United and Liverpool FC have been subjected to messy takeovers by American interests; both fanbases include a lot of people who can no longer practically afford to go to Premier League games. But while FCUM comes across all punk-football-snotty and antiestablishment, so far AFC Liverpool just wants to get along with the Big Club, quietly plying its trade in the North West Counties League and hoping a player makes it to Anfield some day. (AFC does, however, boast a fairly amazing club crest, which combines the traditional Liverpool bird with a couple of bold Victory of Socialism red stars and a stylized wheat garland worthy of a propaganda poster celebrating the History Achievements of Soviet Agriculture.)

It’s all fairly intriguing: could we be seeing the evolution of a new model, wherein every standard, Champions League-playing, international-talent-stacked MegaClub owned by deracinated oligarchs comes with a scrappy little Doppelganger, owned and controlled by local fans who will divide (or multiply) their allegiance? Will we see an AFC Chelsea, an FC Aston Villa of Birmingham? And how transportable is this strategy? Here in the States, with our next-to-nonexistent pyramid, franchise system and lack of promotion and relegation, any fan-owned alternative would probably have to start at an even more modest level, like a local or regional amateur league. But given the persistent (if thus far guerrilla-level) crackle of discontent about the rampant commercialization of the sport around the world, I would bet this sort of thing starts many wheels turning in many minds, and not just in England.

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About zachdundas

Freelance journalist. Author of The Renegade Sportsman (Riverhead Books). Thank you.
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4 Responses to A Fan’s Club? Alternative Freedom Club? Ask For Chips?

  1. Toronto FC has already attempted something similar with the TFC Academy team squaring up in the local-based Canadian Soccer League — I’m not sure this is the right path for major clubs to follow, but if they do it means we now have two-tiered football clubs in addition to two-tiered everything else…

  2. Russell says:

    As a Brit living in Canada I think one of the great gaps in North American sport is the lack of lower league teams that are not affiliated with any big club.I suspect Americans would recognise this proposal more than Europeans,it would be a great way for Major League sides to promote fan involvement and community support but I just can’t see at what level of play it would be at.

  3. Zach Dundas says:

    That, indeed, is the problem: there’s no real pyramid to join. There’s a First Division (with no promotion), a Second Division (on the East Coast only) and then the welter of developmental leagues, regional leagues and fancified local leagues. Balkan satrapies all.

  4. Zach Dundas says:

    That, indeed, is the problem: there’s no real pyramid to join. There’s a First Division (with no promotion), a Second Division (on the East Coast only) and then the welter of developmental leagues, regional leagues and fancified local leagues. Balkan satrapies all.

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