MyFootballClub FC — Has the Bubble Burst?

MyFCThey might be on their way to Wembley in the FA Trophy, but the idea of running a football club and picking the team through the magic of Web 2.0 looks doomed just months after MyFC took over Ebbsfleet United. Their tagline still reads “Own the club and pick the team”, but many now feel that they’ve been duped.

Two articles this week laid into MyFC, as the members considered a poll on whether to take over team selection from manager Liam Daish or not. At Football Media, Ahmed Bilal quoted extensively from the MyFC Web Team’s message to members about the prospect of members taking over team selection. Let me borrow some of the extracts Ahmed cites from the message:

The level of interest in the team selector and general discussion on formations, players, tactics etc has been very low. On average, only about 1% to 1.5% of members are using the team selector to pick a team, and far fewer are watching 90 minutes of matches.

It has therefore been very difficult to design a system that will work based on such low results. The resulting teams from these selections have been reasonable, but fairly predictable and not particularly ground breaking.

In addition, an example where Chris McPhee was used at right back against Aldershot was suggested by no one at all. This was a selection that proved very effective against a talented and speedy winger and yet there is no mechanism that allows Daish the sort of flexibility for this sort of selection.

The web team have invested a lot of time and resources into providing full 90 minute match video either free or as low cost Hi resolution but again the number of members watching these matches is very low and there has been very little comment on the matches or the players performance based on these. The Web Team feel uncomfortable forcing team selection on to the club when it’s not clear whether the appetite is there. The Web Team would appreciate feedback from members on how to improve the popularity and use of the team selector and the full 90 minutes match coverage.

Some have argued that the lack of interest has been due to the lack of training reports and other communications about players. Fair enough, but there has been little effort by members in trying to work with what we have got with a view to refining the whole thing based on practical experience. Some have asked for positions to be assigned to players on the selector, but isn’t this what we are supposed to do? Of course we need to get information from the coach, but until we start practising picking the team, does anyone really know exactly what we want from him.

Most of all though, we have to be sure that we all, or at least most of us, want to do this and are prepared to spend the time researching the necessary information. It has been said many times but this is not football manager, there are no predefined sets of statistics, we are dealing with real people and their livelihoods depend on it. We have to guarantee that many thousands of us will do the research and make the selection and do so week after week.

It is the opinion of the society board that the level of interest in picking the team in the way it is currently constituted, is not sufficient. 300-400 people is not a crowd and if the proper research hasn’t been done, it isn’t wise either. We feel that imposing this on the coach for one of the most important game in Ebbsfleet’s history would be reckless and if it went badly wrong could threaten the whole idea of fans picking the team in the future, let alone spoil the clubs chances in the match.

As Ahmed points out, the fact that thousands of people who have invested only $70 in the team aren’t spending hours pouring over game video and information isn’t exactly a surprise, and it seems to have finally dawned on those running the show that these decisions by distant, disconnected “owners” will actually impact upon real people’s careers and may not be best for the club on the playing field.

But many critics, such as Ian at 200%, have long doubted that many members will sustain a deep interest in the venture over the long-term. He says there is growing disquiet on the MyFC forums about just how ‘democratic’ the whole enterprise actually is: “Accusation and counter-accusation are now commonplace on their forum, and the suspicion is that members are only being allowed to vote on certain issues that suit the ends of the people running the show. Some long term members have already stated that they will not be renewing, and with only just over 2,000 of the 29,000 members having signed up for longer than a year, it’s difficult to see how they’re going to maintain anything like the membership that they currently have.”

As Ian notes, actually picking the team straight out was only one of the five options offered in the poll, which itself seems to be only advisory — it’s not stated that the members decision is binding at all.

The Web Team invites all members to take part in a poll regarding team selection. It will help the manager and members develop a team selection process that reflects the owners’ wishes.

The poll, which you can take part in here, asks the following question:
Which statement best describes your view on “Pick the team”?

* I want to pick the team but I don’t want the manager to make any changes to the members’ selection

* I want to pick the team and I’d like the manager to have some flexibility to make changes to the members’ selection

* I want to pick the team and I’d like the manager to consider, but not necessarily follow, the members’ selection

* I am not interested in picking the team

* I abstain

Team manager Liam Daish sent a message out to members last week, in which he said “I’m concerned about going from a standing start to members picking the team straight away.” The MyFC Society Board — chosen by under 7,000 members — seconded this, stating that “There is the additional point that Liam Daish has guided the team to this Wembley final. Do we really want to steal his thunder by picking the team for such an important match Won’t it be a betrayal of his efforts in getting us this far and robbing him of his well deserved moment of glory?”

But many members feel otherwise, and are baffled by the obfuscation surrounding what picking the team actually means. One wrote on the forum that “I joined to have my vote on picking a starting 11 + subs for each game. If this is not going to be forthcoming neither will be my membership next year!!!!” So far, only just over 2,000 members have pledged for another year of membership.

And another asks, “Let alone worrying about renewals, what about the refunds?”

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