Myfootballclub.co.uk and their thousands of members have agreed a deal to buy Ebbsfleet United, of the Blue Square Premier (Conference National), one rung below England’s Football League. Doubts are already being voiced by those within the footballing establishment, with Birmingham’s co-owner David Sullivan opining that it “it will be an utter disaster.”
“I look forward to the experiment but I think it will be an utter disaster, although I could be very wrong,” said Sullivan, who spoke to BBC Sport before the takeover announcement was made.
Sullivan predicted the website could face insurmountable hurdles if fans were involved in player transfers.
“If a player is in demand you need an instant decision, you can’t go on the internet for six or 12 hours and let people vote,” added Sullivan.
From the other side of the barricades, many fans of non-league football are concerned about the experiment, seeing myfootballclub.co.uk as coming in and messing with the existing community that surrounds a small club such as Ebbsfleet United. Blogger twohundredpercent, for example, rips into the entire concept:
A period of contract signing will now begin which, it seems likely, will result in another club being taken over by a group of people that know nothing and care little more about the long term wellbeing of Ebbsfleet United FC. Whether that organisation has 2 members of 20,000 strikes me as being utterly irrelevant. Ultimately, this club has been sold to be the plaything of a few thousand would-be Alex Fergusons. Whether this proves to be beneficial to the club and its supporters is open to question, but one thing remains certain. Myfootballclub and Jason Botley have done very nicely indeed out of this, and would appear to be the only thing that matters to them.
The choice is interesting as Ebbsfleet supporters seem to have accepted fairly meekly another big chance in recent times: they were previously Gravesend & Northfleet, but in May changed their name to reflect sponsorship by Eurostar, who use Ebbsfleet International railway station. We’ll soon find out how the supporters take to their new fan overlords, and how manager Liam Daish (who will stay on) deals with MFC’s role in team affairs.
Here’s Ebbsfleet are at play last month:
This will shine a spotlight on English football far, far below the focus of 95% of coverage on the Premiership. Whilst some will argue a gimmick threatening a club’s tradition is unwelcome, English football still thrives in the lower reaches like nowhere else in the world. Indeed, supporter ownership there has been crucial in recent years, with supporters’ trusts stepping in to save numerous clubs threatened with extinction. That kind of native effort is, of course, vastly different from myfootballclub.co.uk’s approach.
But the latter does reflect a growing interest in supporter involvement; Drew Carey, a member of Barcelona himself, hinted the new Seattle team would give fans a role in running the club. There is already an American imitator of myfootballclub.co.uk attempting to launch as well.
But will this more extreme experiment work, on and off the field?