Activism

Manchester City fans can now get housing advice at home games

Greater Manchester Tenants Union has teamed up with MCFC Foodbank Support at The Etihad to help fans combat rising poverty.

Manchester City

Fans can now get housing advice at The Etihad as fan groups step up support in wake of Covid-19's impact. Image: MCFC Fans Foodbank Support

Manchester City fans can now access housing advice to deal with rent arrears when they go to see their multi-million-pound team play in the Premier League.

Fans already work together to collect food to distribute to food bank, something that has become commonplace across football grounds in the world’s richest league.

But, in a move thought to be a first, MCFC Fans Foodbank Support will now be joined by representatives from Greater Manchester Tenants Union (GMTU) to tackle poverty as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit the poorest hard. The unique partnership debuted at The Etihad Stadium on Saturday when Manchester City defeated Wolves 1-0.

Nick Clarke, co-founder of MCFC Fans Foodbank Support, told The Big Issue: “Saturday went really well both as a collection and as a trial run from GMTU’s perspective. These things affect all of us and I know it’s not nice to think of football and politics mixing but it’s not about politics, it’s about community. 

“We’re a community club and our community in Manchester, especially over the past 10 years, has experienced a massive increase in rental prices and therefore issues with the amount of people in rent arrears in Manchester.

“We’re there because we want to allow people to make the links themselves between obviously food, poverty, homelessness, and also removing that disconnect that people think it can’t happen for them. It’s about drawing people’s eyes to the wider issues.”

Manchester City
Fans groups want to harness the power of football fans to tackle some of society’s biggest issues in one place. Image: MCFC Foodbank Support

MCFC Fans Foodbank Support has been collecting and distributing food at Manchester City games since before the pandemic.

But the team-up between the two organisations came together in 2020 as Premier League games were held behind closed doors, halting collections.

The fans’ food bank group are now able to collect food again and recorded their biggest collection of the season at Saturday’s game, taking in 155kg of donated food. That means MCFC Fans Foodbank Support have now collected more than a tonne of food across eight City home games this season.

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But even though fans are allowed back at games, Covid-19 is still having an impact. Supporters, like the rest of society, are facing a rising cost of living at a time when the pandemic has left many in rent arrears while Covid-19 support such as the £20 universal credit increase and the furlough scheme has been wound down.

Both MCFC Fans Foodbank Support and GMTU now believe that tackling both food poverty and rent arrears in one place can have a big impact on football fans.

Vik Chechi Ribeiro, GMTU committee member, said: “Ultimately, the best way to fight for better housing is to do it collectively, rather than individually. And that’s where we see our role in bringing together football fans and others who might have similar issues.

“We’re keen on the politicisation of football fans who face rising ticket prices, there’s questions around fan ownership and fans want to have a say in how their clubs run. 

“We see that wider politicisation and we’re quite keen on football fans joining the dots between the imbalance of power in housing with the imbalance of power in football.”

The team-up is not the only recent example of housing organisations trying to harness the power of football fandom.

Shelter launched its No Home Kit campaign in November to ask football clubs to wear their away kits while playing at home in Boxing Day in order to raise awareness of homelessness.

More than 60 clubs have pledged to support the campaign but Premier League clubs will not be among them after bosses controversially ruled the plan was against league rules. 

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