Ed Balls

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The Right Honourable
Ed Balls
Ed Balls 2.jpg
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
20 January 2011 – 8 May 2015
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Alan Johnson
Succeeded by Chris Leslie
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
8 October 2010 – 20 January 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Alan Johnson
Succeeded by Yvette Cooper
Shadow Secretary of State for Education
In office
11 May 2010 – 8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman
Ed Miliband
Preceded by Michael Gove
Succeeded by Andy Burnham
Secretary of State
for Children, Schools and Families
In office
28 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Alan Johnson
Succeeded by Michael Gove
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
6 May 2006 – 28 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Chancellor Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ivan Lewis
Succeeded by Kitty Ussher
Member of Parliament
for Morley and Outwood
Normanton (2005–2010)
In office
5 May 2005 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Bill O'Brien
Succeeded by Andrea Jenkyns
Personal details
Born Edward Michael Balls
(1967-02-25) 25 February 1967 (age 49)
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour Co-operative
Spouse(s) Yvette Cooper (m. 1998)
Alma mater Keble College, Oxford
Harvard University
Religion Anglicanism[1]
Website www.edballs.co.uk

Edward Michael "Ed" Balls (born 25 February 1967) is a British Labour Party and Co-operative Party politician.[2] He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton from 2005 to 2010 and for Morley and Outwood from 2010 to 2015.

Balls was Chief Economic Advisor to the Treasury (1997–2004), Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2006–07) and served as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families in Gordon Brown's Government from 2007 to 2010. He was the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of his electoral defeat, which was described by Larry Elliott of The Guardian as the Portillo moment of the election.[3]

He is currently a Senior Fellow at Harvard University Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, and a Visiting Professor to the Policy Institute at King’s College London. He was appointed chairman of Norwich City F.C. in December 2015.[4]

Balls is married to former Shadow Home Secretary and Labour MP Yvette Cooper. In June 2007, they became the first married couple to serve together in HM Cabinet when Cooper became Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Early life[edit]

Balls's father is the zoologist Michael Balls; his mother is Carolyn Janet Balls (née Riseborough).[5] His younger brother is Andrew Balls, the head of European Operations at the bond and investment firm PIMCO.

Balls was born in Norwich and educated at Bawburgh Primary School in Norwich, Crossdale Drive Primary School in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, and then the private all-boys Nottingham High School, where he played the violin.[6] He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Keble College, Oxford, graduating with a First—according to John Rentoul in The Independent—ahead of David Cameron.[7] Later he attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard, where he was a Kennedy Scholar specialising in Economics.[7]

Balls joined the Labour Party in 1983 while still at school.[6] While at Oxford he was a partially active member of the Labour Club, but also signed up to the Liberal Club[8] as well as the Conservative Association, "because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures" according to friends.[9] Balls was a founding member of the all-male drinking club, The Steamers, and suffered embarrassment when a contemporary photo of him wearing Nazi uniform appeared in the papers.[10]

Early career[edit]

From 1988–90 Balls was a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University.[11] He joined the Financial Times in 1990 as a lead economic writer until his appointment as an economic adviser to Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1994. When Labour won the 1997 general election, Brown became Chancellor and Balls continued to work as his economic adviser; he went on to become Chief Economic Advisor to the Treasury.

Political career[edit]

In July 2004, Balls was selected to stand as Labour and Co-operative candidate for the parliamentary seat of Normanton in West Yorkshire, a Labour stronghold whose MP, Bill O'Brien, was retiring. He stepped down as Chief Economic Adviser to HM Treasury, but was given a position at the Smith Institute, a political think tank. HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office was subsequently stated that "the normal and proper procedures were followed".[12]

Member of Parliament[edit]

In the 2005 general election, he was elected MP for Normanton with a majority of 10,002 and 51.2% of the vote. After the Boundary Commission proposed changes which would abolish his constituency, Balls ran a campaign, in connection with the local newspaper the Wakefield Express,[13] to save the seat and, together with the three other Wakefield MPs (his wife Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Jon Trickett), fought an unsuccessful High Court legal action against the Boundary Commission's proposals.

In March 2007, he was selected to be the Labour Party candidate for the new Morley and Outwood constituency, which contains parts of the abolished Normanton and Morley and Rothwell constituencies,[14] and was elected for the new seat in May 2010. On 5 February 2013, Ed Balls voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain.[15]


Balls became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, a junior ministerial position at HM Treasury, in the Cabinet reshuffle of May 2006. While Economic Secretary, he was commissioned by the G7 finance ministers to prepare a report on economic aspects of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister on 27 June 2007, Balls was promoted to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.

At the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Balls brought together schools and children's policy for the first time in the Children's Plan and raised the UK education and training leaving age to 18.[16]

In October 2008, Balls announced that the Government had decided to scrap SATs tests for 14-year-olds,[17] a move which was broadly welcomed by teachers, parent groups and opposition MPs.[18] The decision to continue with SATs tests for 11-year-olds was described by head teachers' leader Mick Brookes as a missed opportunity.[19]

In December 2008, in the wake of the Baby P Case,[20] Ed Balls intervened directly in the running of Haringey Social Services, ordering the immediate dismissal without compensation of Sharon Shoesmith the Director of Children's Services.[21] David Cameron had also called for her dismissal.[21] Prior to her dismissal, Shoesmith had been widely praised in her former role as Director of Education, though she was handicapped by having no social work background.[22] An emergency OFSTED report ordered by Balls in November 2008 following the child abuse trial found that safeguarding arrangements were inadequate though Shoesmith's lawyers claimed the final report was changed.[23] Shoesmith subsequently brought a Judicial review against Balls, Ofsted and Haringey Council[23] and a series of appeals followed.[20] The Conservative Opposition supported Balls' right to dismiss her "because ministers want to uphold the principle that they – and not the courts, through judicial review – should be responsible for their decisions".[24] She received compensation because her sacking had been "procedurally unfair"[25] and the Department for Children, Schools and Families was subsequently refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.[20] In October 2013, it was reported that Shoesmith had agreed an out-of-court settlement with her former employer Haringey Council; unconfirmed reports referred to a sum of 'up to £600,000'. Appeal Court judge Lord Neuberger had described Balls' dismissal of Shoesmith as 'unlawful', but in a statement issued on 29 October, Balls asserted that 'faced with the same situation [he] would do the same thing again.'[26]

Balls sponsored the Children, Schools and Families Bill which had its first reading on 19 November 2009.[27] Part of the proposed legislation will see regulation of parents who home educate their children in England, introduced in response to the Badman Review, with annual inspections to determine quality of education and welfare of the child. Home educators across the UK petitioned their MPs to remove the proposed legislation.[28]

Several parts of the bill, including the proposed register for home educators, and compulsory sex education lessons, were abandoned as they had failed to gain cross party support prior to the pending May 2010 election.[29]

Labour leadership election[edit]

Following the resignation of Gordon Brown as both Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, Balls announced on 19 May 2010 that he was standing in the election to replace Brown. Balls was the third candidate to secure the minimum of 33 nominations from members of the Parliamentary Labour Party in order to enter the leadership race. The other contenders were former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham, backbencher Diane Abbott and former Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, who would go on to win.

Shadow Cabinet[edit]

The newly elected Labour Leader Ed Miliband appointed Balls Shadow Home Secretary on 8 October 2010, a job he held until 20 January 2011, when the resignation of Alan Johnson for "personal reasons" led Miliband to announce Balls as Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.[30] As Shadow Chancellor, Balls regularly appeared with Miliband at joint press conferences relating to Labour policy. Together with Miliband, Balls promoted a "five-point plan for jobs and growth" as Shadow Chancellor. The plan was described as aimed at helping the UK economy, and would have involved reinstating the bonus tax to fund building more social homes, bringing forward long-term investment, cutting VAT to 17.5%, cutting VAT on home improvements to 5% for one year, and instigating a one-year national insurance break.[31]

Balls declared in January 2012 that he would continue with the public sector pay freeze which led to opposition from Len McCluskey. He had a bruising exchange in the House of Commons with George Osborne regarding the Libor rate scandal, where Osborne accused Balls of being involved in the scandal. Conservative MPs became unhappy after Bank of England deputy governor, Paul Tucker denied encouragement to pressurise Barclays with Andrea Leadsom saying Osborne had made a mistake and should apologise.[32]

2015 general election[edit]

In the 2015 general election Balls lost his seat to the Conservative Party's Andrea Jenkyns by a margin of 3.6%. It was claimed that the Labour leader's office had known for two weeks that Balls was likely to lose.[33] On 11 May it was reported that Balls would receive up to £88,000 as a "golden goodbye" on leaving the Commons.[34]


Balls was appointed Senior Fellow at John F. Kennedy School of Government and also became Visiting Professor of King's College, London in October 2015. In December 2015, he was appointed Chairman of Norwich City F.C.[35][36]

Political activities[edit]

Balls has played a prominent role in the Fabian Society. In 1992 he wrote a Fabian pamphlet advocating Bank of England independence, a policy adopted when Gordon Brown became Chancellor in 1997.[7]

Balls was elected Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society for 2006 and Chair of the Fabian Society for 2007. As Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society, he launched the Fabian Life Chances Commission report in April 2006[37] and opened the Society's Next Decade lecture series in November 2006,[38] arguing for closer European cooperation on the environment.

Balls has been a central figure in New Labour's economic reform agenda. He and Gordon Brown have differed from the Blairites in being keen to stress their roots in Labour party intellectual traditions such as Fabianism and the co-operative movement as well as their modernising credentials in policy and electoral terms. In a New Statesman interview in March 2006, Martin Bright writes that Balls "says the use of the term 'socialist' is less of a problem for his generation than it has been for older politicians like Blair and Brown, who remain bruised by the ideological warfare of the 1970s and 1980s".[39]

"When I was at college, the economic system in eastern Europe was crumbling. We didn't have to ask the question of whether we should adopt a globally integrated, market-based model. For me, it is now a question of what values you have. Socialism, as represented by the Labour Party, the Fabian Society, the Co-operative movement, is a tradition I can be proud of", said Balls.[39]

Allegations over allowances[edit]

In September 2007, with his wife Yvette Cooper, he was accused by Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker of "breaking the spirit of Commons rules" by using MPs' allowances to help pay for a £655,000 home in north London.[40] Balls and Cooper bought a four bedroom house in Stoke Newington, and registered this as their second home (rather than their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire) in order to qualify for up to £44,000 a year to subsidise a reported £438,000 mortgage under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance, of which they claimed £24,400. Both worked in London full-time and their children attended local London schools. Balls and Cooper claimed that "The whole family travel between their Yorkshire home and London each week when Parliament is sitting. As they are all in London during the week, their children have always attended the nearest school to their London house."[41]

Balls and Cooper "flipped" the designation of their second home three times within the space of two years.[42] In June 2008 they were referred to the Standards Commissioner over allegations that they were claiming expenses for what was effectively their main home in London, their combined claim was £24,000 i.e. "slightly more" than the single MP allowance.[42] The commissioner exonerated them, adding that their motives were not for profit as they paid full capital gains tax.[42]

Personal life[edit]

He married Yvette Cooper, who later became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in Eastbourne on 10 January 1998.[43] Cooper is Member of Parliament for Morley & Outwood's neighbouring constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. They have three children.[44] Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.[45]

In September 2010, the British Stammering Association announced that Balls had become a Patron of the Association. Its Chief Executive, Norbert Lieckfeldt, paid tribute to him for having been very public in his declaration that he has at times struggled with his speech.[46][47]

In 2016 he took part in the Sport Relief Great British Bake Off.[48]

Balls was fined in June 2013 for going through a red light in December 2012.[49] He has also admitted speeding in April 2013 and using his mobile phone whilst driving during the 2010 General Election campaign.[49] On 5 August 2014, he was fined £900 and given five penalty points on his driving licence for failing to stop after a car accident. He said he knew that the cars had touched, but did not stop to check as he did not think any damage had been done.[50]

Ed Balls Day[edit]

Balls, alerted by an assistant to an article about him and urged to search Twitter for it, accidentally entered his intended search term in the wrong box and ended up sending a tweet saying "Ed Balls" on 28 April 2011.[51] The unusual tweet was spotted and retweeted by thousands (Balls was unaware that it was possible to delete a tweet). The incident is now celebrated as "Ed Balls Day" on its anniversary each 28 April, with followers retweeting his original message and commemorating the occasion in other ways.[52][53] When invited to send something to be auctioned to raise funds for the party in 2015, Balls submitted a framed, signed printout of the tweet.[54] To celebrate "Ed Balls Day" in 2016, Balls baked a cake featuring the tweet.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The fighter –– Ed Balls". New Statesman. 22 July 2010. Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ed Balls". The Labour Party. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010. Ed Balls is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Morley and Outwood 
  3. ^ Elliott, Larry (8 May 2015). "Defeat of Ed Balls gives Tories their 'Portillo moment'". The Guardian. London. 
  4. ^ "ED BALLS BECOMES NEW NORWICH CITY CHAIRMAN". Norwich City F.C. Retrieved 27 December 2015. 
  5. ^ Who's Who, published by A & C Black, (2001 edition) ISBN 0713654325
  6. ^ a b Matt Chorley (12 September 2010). "Ed Balls: Running his race to the beat of the people's drum". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c John Rentoul (30 March 2011). "Origins of the Cameron-Balls Feud". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 3 April 2011. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  8. ^ Routledge, Patrick (8 March 1998). "Profile: Ed Balls – Brown's young egghead". Independent. 
  9. ^ Guy Adams (5 July 2006). "Revealed: How Ed Balls was a Tory under Thatcher". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 22 October 2009. 
  10. ^ Calder, Jonathan (13 October 2008). "Labour's private school heroes". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "New Report on Inclusive Prosperity Recommends Progressive Solutions". Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Winnett, Robert (12 November 2007). "Call for inquiry over Balls's think tank". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 13 November 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  13. ^ "MP Ed is calm over his future". Wakefield Express. 19 October 2006. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "Hansard – House of Commons – 23 Apr 2007. col.754". Parliament.the-stationery-office.com. Archived from the original on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  15. ^ "The House of Commons.2013.Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012–2013". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "School leaving age to rise to 18". BBC. 4 November 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Curtis, Polly (14 October 2008). "Sats for 14-year-olds are scrapped". theguardian.com. London: Guardian News & Media. Archived from the original on 16 October 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  18. ^ Garner, Richard (15 October 2008). "National tests for 14-year-olds are scrapped after marking chaos". The Independent. London: Independent News & Media. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  19. ^ "Tests scrapped for 14-year-olds". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 14 October 2008. Archived from the original on 15 October 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  20. ^ a b c "Timeline of Baby P case". BBC news. 15 February 2012. Archived from the original on 4 November 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Sharon Shoesmith sacked after Baby P scandal". The Daily Telegraph. London. 8 December 2008. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  22. ^ Donovan, Tim (27 May 2011). "Profile: Sharon Shoesmith". BBC News. Archived from the original on 26 April 2010. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  23. ^ a b Harrison, Angela (1 April 2010). "Ofsted changed Shoesmith report". BBC News. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  24. ^ Butler, Patrick; Watt, Nicholas (27 May 2011). "Sharon Shoesmith turns on Ed Balls after court rules her dismissal unfair". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 28 May 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  25. ^ "Sharon Shoesmith Sacking: Baby Peter director wins appeal". BBC News. 27 May 2011. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  26. ^ Holhouse, Matthew (29 October 2013). "Baby P boss Sharon Shoesmith's payout 'shocking'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. 
  27. ^ "Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009–10". Services.parliament.uk. 8 April 2010. Archived from the original on 27 November 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  28. ^ "Home educators in record petition of MPs". BBC News. 9 December 2009. Archived from the original on 10 December 2009. 
  29. ^ "Ed Balls drops key education reforms". BBC News. 7 April 2010. Archived from the original on 8 April 2010. 
  30. ^ "Alan Johnson 'to quit front-line politics'". BBC News. 20 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. 
  31. ^ "Labour's plan for jobs and growth". Labour Party. 19 October 2011. Archived from the original on 14 October 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  32. ^ Watt, Nicholas; Mulholland, Hélène (10 July 2012). "George Osborne faces Tory pressure to apologise to Ed Balls". Guardian newspapers. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  33. ^ "Ed Miliband's office knew Ed Balls would lose for two weeks before polling day – but did not tell him". The Daily Telegraph. London. 13 May 2015. 
  34. ^ "Ed Balls to get £88,000 'golden goodbye' as former MPs are handed £11.5m taxpayer payout". The Daily Telegraph. London. 10 May 2015. 
  35. ^ "Ed Balls-profile". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 October 2007. Archived from the original on 9 September 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2010. 
  36. ^ "Ed Balls: Norwich City name ex-shadow chancellor as chairman". BBC Sport. 27 December 2015. 
  37. ^ "The Fabian Society – Narrowing the Gap: The final report of the Fabian Commission on Life Chances and Child Poverty". Fabians.org.uk. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  38. ^ "Ed Balls 'Next Decade' lecture: Britain's Next Decade". The Fabian Society. 1 November 2006. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2010. [dead link]
  39. ^ a b "Interview: Ed Balls". New Statesman. 20 March 2006. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  40. ^ Hope, Christopher (24 September 2007). "Ed Balls claims £27,000 subsidy for 2nd home". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  41. ^ Hope, Christopher; Gammell, Kara (24 September 2007). "Ed Balls claims £27,000 subsidy for 2nd home". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  42. ^ a b c Prince, Rosa (15 May 2009). "Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper 'flipped' homes three times: MPs' expenses". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  43. ^ ""Debrett's People of Today 2011", Extract Editions". 2011. p. 77. Archived from the original on 8 August 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  44. ^ "Health minister celebrates birth". The Daily Telegraph. London. 27 August 2001. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2010. 
  45. ^ "The Cabinet: Who's Who". BBC News. 30 November 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  46. ^ "Ed Balls MP becomes BSA patron". Speaking Out. British Stammering Association. Winter 2010. Retrieved 18 July 2016. 
  47. ^ Riddell, Mary (23 January 2010). "Ed Balls: People who stammer avoid certain situations,but in my job you can't". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  48. ^ Conlan, Tara (10 December 2015). "Samantha Cameron and Ed Balls to mix it up in Great British Bake Off special". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 January 2016. 
  49. ^ a b "Ed Balls fined for going through red traffic light". BBC news. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original on 28 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  50. ^ "Shadow chancellor Ed Balls fined over car accident". BBC News. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014. 
  51. ^ Balls, Ed (28 April 2011). "Ed Balls". Twitter. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  52. ^ Collins, Lauren (28 April 2014). "Happy Ed Balls Day". The New Yorker. 
  53. ^ Sini, Rozina (28 April 2016). "Why people are celebrating Ed Balls Day". BBC News. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  54. ^ Hooton, Christopher (12 February 2015). "Ed Balls signs and auctions his infamous tweet – then ruins it with 'best wishes'". The Independent. London. 
  55. ^ "Ed Balls on Twitter: "Good grief.. but how could I say No? RT @YvetteCooperMP We've insisted he bake a cake. How else would you celebrate?". Twitter. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Bill O'Brien
Member of Parliament for Normanton
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Morley and Outwood
Succeeded by
Andrea Jenkyns
Political offices
Preceded by
Ivan Lewis
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Kitty Ussher
Preceded by
Alan Johnson
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Succeeded by
Michael Gove
Preceded by
Michael Gove
Shadow Secretary of State for Education
Succeeded by
Andy Burnham
Preceded by
Alan Johnson
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Yvette Cooper
Preceded by
Alan Johnson
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Chris Leslie
Party political offices
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Seema Malhotra
Chair of the Fabian Society
Succeeded by
Anne Campbell
Business positions
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Alan Bowkett
Chairman of Norwich City F.C.