Village Manchester FC was formed in 1996 by a small, yet determined group of friends who created a team to enable like minded individuals to play a sport they were passionate about in a competitive local league. Motivation was, in part, to prove a point against a common view that a gay team could not compete in a predominantly straight league but more importantly – win, lose or draw – the club was a focal point for all involved to keep fit and socialise together.
This competitive, social and fun approach to the game continues today.
In the early years, attracting sufficient numbers of players to turn out and play for the club on a regular basis was an achievement in itself. VMFC found life in the league tough going in the first six years of competing in Division 1 of the Manchester Accountants league. Despite this, win, lose or draw, the players continued to wear the shirt with pride week in week out as well as representing Manchester at numerous football tournaments around the world including Washington (1997), Amsterdam (1998), Florida (1999) and Cologne (2000).
The first taste of success on the field came in 2001 when the club reached the semi final of the IGLFA World Championship in London. Following this achievement, the club reached the semi final of the League Cup in 2003 and finally gained promotion to the Premier Division in 2004.
2004 Euro Games
Village Manchester FC took their new found confidence to Munich at the 2004 Euro Games and competed against the best 15 gay football teams from around Europe. The club did itself proud. Village Manchester FC were one of only two teams to remain undefeated in open play throughout the whole competition. We were only beaten on penalties in the quarter finals by the then IGLFA World Champions.
2004/5 saw the club stretch expectations further. After adapting quickly to life in the League's Premier Division, VMFC finished in a respectable 6th position in the first season when traditionally previously promoted teams often experienced an immediate return through relegation to the lower league.
Recognition for the manner in which the club handled itself over the season resulted in VMFC being awarded the 2005 Manchester FA Fair Play award.
In August 2005 the club traveled to Copenhagen to compete in the IGLFA World Championships and surpassed all previous achievements at a gay football tournament by remaining unbeaten in open play, reaching the final and just missing out on becoming World Champions in a close match which ended 1-1 after extra time, eventually losing the penalty shoot out against Paris.
GFSN Cup winners
2006 - First ever trophy win
The experience gained from this tournament instilled a new found confidence that carried through to the new 2005/6 season and would ultimately lead to VMFC’s most successful two year period by winning a first ever trophy. In 2005/6 we finished fourth in the league and in the following year we were crowned Manchester Accountants League Premier Division Champions.
As so often happens after periods of success and growth, the club has experienced a transitional period with many established players hanging up their boots to retire into the now infamous VMFC Hall of Fame and others moving away from Manchester for pastures new.
Despite this, the club continued to attract new players and supporters and whilst 2007/8 season did not produce any silverware during a difficult season for the first team, the club traveled to South America to compete in the IGLFA World Cup in Argentina. We reached the quarter final stages and capped the season off with our second team victorious in a nail biting GFSN Cup Final eventually winning 3-2 thanks to an injury time winning goal and in turn delivering a third domestic trophy in three seasons for the club.
IGLFA World Championship, Argentina
In the 2008/9 season the club continued to build momentum, welcoming yet more new faces to the team, a successful club tour to the Barcelona Euro Games and reaching the semi final of the Umbro International Tournament during the summer of 2008. Summer 2008 saw the club victorious in two Pride events: the Ford Motors London Pride 5-a-side and the Manchester Pride Tournament.
We picked up more silverware in 2009 winning the GFSN Winter Tournament, and repeated this in the 2010 Winter Tournament, having also been finalists in the 2010 Summer Tournament.
2010/11 was a good season with the club ending the Accountants League as runners up, getting silver in the first IGLFA European Cup which was held in Manchester with the aid of VMFC, silver winners for the first team in the first division of the EuroGames in Rotterdam, and gold winners for the second team in the second division in Rotterdam. At the start of 2011/12 we also won the London Titans Tournament.
Division One silver
Division Two gold
It was also in 2010/11 that VMFC's second team, under the management of Matt Hall, really came into its own, building up the amount of football being played until eventually joining a Sunday league of its own.
2012 saw us win the gold medal in the second division of the EuroGames in Budapest during what all considered to be an awesome tour: a beautiful city, boiling hot weather and a gold medal! During the summer we were also winners and runners up in the GFSN Summer Tournament in Glasgow (always good fun when the team gets to play with itself!)
Division Two gold
It was in summer 2013 that VMFC achieved its greatest glory - winning the IGLFA European Cup in Dublin. We took two teams. The firsts went to win, beating old rivals Stonewall in the semi final and hosts Dublin Devils in the final. The seconds, who were joined by friends from Leicester Wildecats, Nottingham Ball Bois and Mersey Marauders, went to drink and have fun. And in that respect they also won gold!
This was followed later in the summer with a trip to the World OutGames in Antwerp, where VMFC came fourth.
2013 was also our first win the It's a Gay Knockout, the unofficial start to Manchester Pride. This was repeated in both 2014 (winners and runners up) and 2015.
IGLFA European Champions
Sometimes the bridesmaid...
2014 saw a successful GFSN Cup run take us all the way to the final at England FA's impressive St George's facility, losing out to London Romans, but saw us win in Cardiff's European City of Sport's Unity Tournament.
GFSN Cup finalists
FA St Georges Park
Cardiff European City of Sport Unity Cup winners
2015's Accountants League season was a difficult one for the club, finishing ninth out of 10 and only avoiding relegation from the Premier Division due to the number of new teams in the lower division. The second team also struggled in the City Central League; reorganisation of the League led to two divisions merging and a resulting disparity in the quality of the teams.
However, we made it to the GFSN Cup semi final and won silver medals at the EuroGames in Stockholm. We'd earlier in the summer missed out on medals at the IGLFA European Cup in Hamburg but had a great tournament.
Late 2015 was a sad time for VMFC as we lost one of our players. AJ was a much loved member of the club, and had also played for Yorkshire Terriers and Nottingham Ball Bois. We were proud to take part in, and honoured to win, the AJ Memorial Tournament.
25 October 2015
Our second team plays in the GFSN League and Cup and in 2015 took part in the inaugural Northern Cup featuring seven Scottish and Northern English gay and inclusive teams.
2016 was our 20th anniversary year and was, of course, marked with a camp night of reflection and comedy at New York New York. It was also marked by tournament wins: the First Team won the Yorkshire Tournament in March and then the GFSN summer tournament in Leceister in June; we also held a mini tournament of six teams in the summer.
Yorkshire Tournament win
GFSN summer tournament Leicester win
Our first team made the exciting move to the 108 year old Lancashire and Cheshire League after nearly two decades in the Manchester Accountants League. There was huge amounts of discussion – moving from Sunday league to Saturday league was a huge step. However, our bold move was a success and our first year saw us finish second in our division and promotion!
2016 saw the Seconds in the new M62 Unite League with VMFC taking on Mersey Marauders and Yorkshire Terriers in what felt like a never-ending series of fixtures.
2017 was a big year for the club, as we hosted the annual GFSN summer tournament. It was the fourth time we’d hosted, and with 32 teams and 300 players, it was the biggest in the GFSN’s history. Read about our SummerSeven tournament here.
SummerSeven: the biggest ever GFSN summer tournament
We also sent a squad, augmented by five Soho players, to the World OutGames in Miami. On arrival in the city, we found that financial irregularities meant the games were in serious trouble, and many sports didn’t happen. Thanks to the hard work of the IGLFA, the football tournament went ahead. No gongs for VMFC, but a great trip.
There was also a friendly against Altrincham FC’s supporters for Football V Homophobia (at which there was homophobia, doh!)
A highlight of the year was attending Manchester FA's annual Grassroots Awards, where the first team was nominated as Male Team of the Year, and our Treasurer/Comms Officer/Miami Co-ordinator/SummerSeven Organiser Steve Joyce won Volunteer of the Year. What a legend!
Manchester FA Grassroots Awards
Nominees: First Team
Winner: Steve Joyce
A mini trip to Dublin for a friendly against Dublin Devils provided a great break before the start of the 2017/18 season. As with all great friendlies, it was a draw.
2018 saw one of the most successful ever VMFC summer tours, with over 40 people heading to the Gay Games / IGLFA World Championship in Paris. There were 32 teams, and with beautiful symmetry, the First Team came 2nd and the Second Team came 31st. The Firsts lost out to West Hollywood in the final on penalties after 1:1, with only their (debatable offside) goal stopping VMFC from being World Champions. But that’s football.
Two teams at the IGLFA World Championship/ Gay Games Paris
Domestically, 2018/19 was the start of a change for the club with a huge increase in numbers. An increase in marketing and a move from Salford’s Albert Park to the city centre’s Trinity Sports Centre saw a dramatic rise in the number of players, and over the next two seasons the number of teams grew from two to four.
The Thirds, who would become the Fourths, started with a year of friendlies.
The Firsts saw success (almost) as finalists in the L&C Wray Cup, losing 1-0 in a hard-fought match. The year also saw a Football V Homophobia friendly against Manchester FA (a nice 2-2 draw).
Firsts, Veterans, Fourths
2019/20 and it was all change in a number of ways. Our Reserves/Seconds was split into two, with both teams playing in the MASFL under the names Reserves A and Reserves B (which meant the Third team was actually the fourths… confused yet?)
The Thirds (fourths) had a year of GFSN league and Total Football Sunday League.
January 2020 saw the club experience one of its worst cases of homophobic abuse. Over the last couple of years there had been a steady rise in abuse, and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back… complaints were submitted to Manchester FA against several teams, but the club determined that the complaints procedure was too slow and the sanctions insignificant. A social media post gathered pace until eventually the club was featured in a range of newspapers, websites, radio and television, massively promoting our aims for inclusive football and the fight against bigotry. Sadly, when we finally managed to secure a response from the national FA (which took many weeks), the planned meeting had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Serious homophobia led to huge media coverage
The global Covid-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented curtailment of the season in mid-March 2020. All our leagues were canceled and results expunged.
The Firsts had had a great start to the season but struggled in the L&C League post-Christmas, not helped by a very wet winter that led to lots of opposition pitches being waterlogged for weeks. However, they reached the quarter-finals of both the L&C’s Wray Cup and Manchester FA’s Saturday Amateur Cup, and the finals of the GFSN Cup – we are determined to play this, and whichever team wins will be the first to win the GFSN Cup three times. After losing to London Romans the last time we met in the final, let’s hope it’s VMFC’s turn!
The Second Team was storming ahead in the MASFL and the Thirds, having started slowly, was starting to win games, also in the MASFL. The Fourths were getting plenty of football in the GFSN and Total Football leagues.
Sadly the EuroGames in Dusseldorf and the GFSN summer tournament in Glasgow both had to be canceled.
Fourths play the last game before lockdown
We were able to return to football in the summer and the season started as usual at the beginning of September, only to be stopped for most of November, start again in December, and then stop again for the third lockdown in January 2021.
It was a great shame for the club, with the Firsts and Seconds both now in the L&C on Saturdays, and the Fourths having joined the Thirds in the MASFL on Sundays. We were also looking forward to playing the 2019/20 GFSN Cup final.
There are exciting times for 2021… it’s VMFC’s 25th anniversary and plans are starting to be formulated to mark the year. In addition, we are already looking forward to the next EuroGames, which coincides with World Pride in Copenhagen. Wonderful, wonderful!
Throughout our history, VMFC has been a strong advocate for inclusive football. Much of our growth over the last two years has been a steady stream of straight players attracted by the club’s ethos: we don’t care who you love, as long as you love football!
Do you love football? Be part of Village Manchester FC’s future…