Well, no-one saw this coming: Ebbsfleet United, the “world’s first web community owned club”, has lost most of its community in its second year of operation and the club is spiralling towards disaster on and off the field.
It’s hard to say just how unsurprising this is. Eighteen months ago, we noted that the bubble had burst, with interest from members on being involved with the MyFootballClub website declining dramatically.
The loss in membership was clear by February this year, as 23,000 members did not renew from their initial investment (a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, chaps), leaving just 9,000 paying their dues of £35 annually.
The club’s budget was slashed, and Ebbsfleet now sit second from bottom in the Blue Square Premier, with just nine points from eighteen games.
Still, the venture has substantially boosted the profile of the football journalist Will Brooks who started the whole thing.
Now Brooks, as he told the Independent’s Steve Tongue, has come up with a new plan to save the club: asking people to pay more. “We are working on a new model where fewer members pay more. For example, 3,000 members paying £10 a month could sustain the club,” he said.
So, the club only has 9,000 increasingly frustrated folks left as members, yet Brooks thinks a third of them will be willing to almost triple their investment and keep doing so to save Brook’s model, which was flawed from the start?
One hopes that in looking at this experiment, observers are able to distinguish it from anything to do with real community-owned clubs who have actual sustainable business plans involving supporters who have a long-lasting connection to their team.