Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Raphael Nade for Ebbsfleet Utd (v Altrincham), 20 October 2007
We have touched on this subject before, but today MyFootballClub agreed to buy a controlling stake in Blue Square Premier side Ebbsfleet United.
You probably know the premise - an annual membership fee of £35 gets you a stake in a club and input on all major decisions affecting the club and the team.
I know there are those readers who have signed up to this venture, and earlier today ST asked me whether he thought CUAS should get involved at the start, or whether I thought the idea preposterous.
Let me answer that very simply: I think this whole escapade is utterly ridiculous.
Your £35 gets you, for example, a vote on team selection and tactics. The head coach (former Republic of Ireland international Liam Daish, by the way) will make notes on form and fitness, but it's ultimately the members that decide the starting XI.
Brilliant. Let armchair punters with no idea whatsoever decide who plays. Anyone know who plays at right-back for Ebbsfleet United? Or, indeed, who their reserve right-back is? No, thought not. How, then, is one supposed to make any sort of informed decision about who to pick bar the coaching staff who work with them on a daily basis?
Suppose, for example, Ebbsfleet tie up a deal to sign Lee Sharpe which is approved by the members. With no disrespect to the fella, he's probably not that fit these days and a shadow of the once great winger he was (some would say that was true at any point after he left Man United.) If he's on the selection list for 53,000 ignorant punters to pick from, he'll get picked, won't he? Even if the incumbent left winger is a 19 year old genius in the making.
Malcolm Bigcock. He'll get a game every week for one reason alone.
And what happens when they are 2-0 down at half time? Is there a text-based vote? "Text the name of the player you want replaced to 81193".
And then there's the second season. 53,000 people paid their £35 in ignorance of which club was chosen. Ebbsfleet were unveiled today, they fail to improve on their 9th place in the Blue Square Premier and it rolls around to next August. The novelty wears off, a few thousand can't be bothered, a few thousand more don't like the choice of club. Bang goes the income - and then what?
The website says it will "inspire players - having the backing of tens of thousands of members will be the ultimate motivation." Until of course you play a blinder one week and are dropped the next because a few thousand people in Chicago or Aberystwyth fancy the other player in your position because the internet tells them so. Not that inspiring then, eh?
Well, Ebbsfleet fans, I feel for you. Having your club poached from under your nose in nothing more than a giant publicity stunt, and your team chosen by people whose sole experience of this sort of thing is taking Rushden and Diamonds to the Premiership on Championship Manager must be galling.
I just don't get it. A head coach and coaching staff taking training on a day to day basis whilst completely unqualified and ignorant people get to decide the starting XI just because they paid for the club. If I were coming up with a blueprint for a successful club, Hearts and Chelsea wouldn't be the first two I'd pick.....
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That's it though, you don't get it. Nor do many other sceptics who haven't bothered to read the FAQ & Ts & Cs on the website.
But the fact is, a little non-league club, who has never attained league status before, may now just have that chance, with increased investment and support.
The attendance at their last home game was 930 - expect this to increase dramatically.
Their website was in meltdown today as a huge surge of hits battered their server.
Their next away game is at Oxford - potentially, there could be more away fans than home fans.
This hasn't been done before so there's bound to be things that go wrong.
Many of the existing fans are concerned understandably but any club takeover, in whatever form, is bound to be scary.
What can I say, I'm an optimistic dreamer at heart!
Sorry, just reread my comment and it comes across as a bit aggressive - my apologies.
Been reading what the miserable lot on 606 have been posting and it's hard not to rant right now! :)
I partially agree with LB, although I can see weenie's point of view too. I did trawl through the FAQs and the T&Cs yesterday, as I wondered whether this was something I would be interested in getting involved in. In the end I decided not to. It doesn't actually really say that the members will have the deciding say in who gets selected and who gets bought and sold - well, it does say that, but in a way that I think is going to be sufficiently easy for the board and manager to steer in the direction they want to steer it: team selection will be based upon notes from the manager (sorry, head coach) and as such, I imagine that the majority of members will just accept the manager's wisdom and vote with the status quo. I can't see that 50,000 odd people will be coordinated or motivated enough to want to f*ck the whole thing up just for the hell of it. It is an interesting idea, and it gives a small club like Ebbsfleet a whole pile of money, a lot of publicity, better attendances and presumably a lot of shirt sales.
I can't get away from what the poor bloody Ebbsfleet fans are supposed to make of this though. How would you feel if this happened to your club?
LB rightly talks about how this is as bad as the abramovichs and the glazers of this world taking over football clubs... but I'm not sure I agree. One man making a club his plaything is one thing, 50,000 people is something different and the whims of one person cannot steer the club or influence selection - they only have the same amount of say as any of the other members. This also looks as though it is being run and organised by people with proper football credentials and a long history of fanzine writing and involvement in the grass roots of the game... again, very different to your average abramovich.
I'm not going to sign up for this, but I'm not going to get angry about it. I'm intrigued and I'm going to watch their progress with interest.
Having said all of that, I think LB is displaying the righteous anger of the long-serving, one-club football fan who has attended games for years and years and is terribly concerned about the direction that football is taking. It does him credit. Perhaps my attitude comes from the perspective of an armchair Wolves fan who goes to games only very occasionally.....
Comment that I left on 606...
"I hope the Ebbsfleet fans welcome this. As a paid-up member of MyFootballClub, I'm in this for football generally - any model that can successfuly illustrate the distribution of ownership of clubs to maximum numbers of small investors.
I also like the relative obscurity of Ebbsfleet, though I'd have preferred somewhere a bit further north.
The comments of Manager / Head Coach Liam Daish are very positive too, and I think that is a really important first step. But note: MyFootballClub members should not get carried away with this - it'll be more of a drip-drip process of change, than a great torrent."
In short, and as ST and Weenie suggest, I think we have to read expressions such as 'input into team selection' with big barrels of salt... which makes the whole thing seem much more workable.
LB - the mouthy ill-educated cloud-cuckooland sorts that phone in and email 606 every week really p1ss me off too. Here, I think it'll just have to be a case of their being endured, as in so many other places... wrote Shane, in as patronising and I'm-a-right-proper-clever-git-I-am sort of way as could ever have been unhumanly possible.
Weenie - for reference I read the whole MFC website extremely closely before writing my piece. By all means buy a stake in a club - I am a member of FC United - but my point is that I think the idea of being involved in the day to day running of the team is preposterous. If they sell a load of shirts and get a load of bums on seats then great - but I am not sure that is the point of the exercise, is it?
ST - maybe you're right. I'm far happier that Ebbsfleet are owned by 50,000 keen punters than by a Russian oligarch, that much is certainly true.
Shane - I suspect you are right and hopefully the notes and comments made by the coaching staff will sway the decisions of the members.
The communal ownership element I can and will happily accept - supporters trusts run several League clubs these days anyway. What I do have a problem with is handing over control of football issues from qualified coaches and experienced players to people who have stumped up £35 - this is using Ebbsfleet staff and players as guinea pigs in a giant experiment. Surely not what football is about....
A big thing is made about the team selection. This wasn't why I signed up. Teams generally pick themselves (unless you're Rafa/Liverpool...). Me, I would certainly go with the coach's recommendation...unless I thought he was making a big mistake. Think of all the England fans who knew Sven was making a mistake in including Theo in the WC squad and not playing him or trying to play Lampard and Gerrard together...
It's not a game cos it's a real club but it may be seen as an experiment because it's new. I certainly don't want this to fail and want Ebbsfleet to succeed.
A big thing is also made about the 35 quid - you spend far more than that on a Friday night out but for my 35 quid, I'll hopefully be helping a club get promotion! :)
I'll not bore you any more with this, some people believe, some don't!
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