We’ve written before on myfootballclub.co.uk, the madcap scheme for 50,000+ football fans to buy an English club and run it themselves. I’ve been waiting for the backlash to start in the mainstream media on this, and now it has – writing in The Guardian, Dave Lee — a Cambridge United supporter, one of the top three clubs listed in myfootballclub.co.uk’s possible purchase list — lets rip on what he sees happening.
It’s certainly unique, I’ll give them that. But when I started to hear Cambridge United being bandied about as a possible purchase, I began to worry. It sounds dangerous. “It’s really a test to see whether fans really know as much about the game as we think they do,” said Tim Glynne-Jones, one of the brains behind the site, in an interview with ITV’s Anglia News. “We’ve got a hunch they do know an awful lot.”
It has disaster written all over it. My own hunch (which is, obviously, equally as valid as Mr Glynne-Jones’s, seeing as it is based on absolutely nothing) is that a huge number of football fans don’t know much about football at all. If we were that clever, we’d all be coaches. Having 50,000 collective minds doesn’t change this fact. I’d say it made it even worse – you’re potentially putting the fate of a football club in the hands of a mob.
There are many others who think this is possibly a get-rich-quick scheme for the founders, and who hate the idea of their club being at the mercy of 50,000 random football fans — or as Dave Lee rather tellingly states, “a mob”. There are also questions about the financing of the venture that we will be addressing in this space soon.
My own view is that there’s half a good idea here being strangled by a bigger bad one. I’m all for fan ownership. They certainly can’t do a lot worse than most people running lower-league English football clubs. One commenter on the above article sums this up quite well:
Members won’t be able to vote on anything that can put the club in the red. Seeing as 87% of Championship clubs recently admitted to spending beyond their means, this is surely a very good thing.
The traditional way of running clubs has led to debt for all but a handful, so to criticise a new way approach [sic] to funding…seems unfairly negative.
I’m personally more doubtful about running the football side of things by committee. Did anyone else watch the reality tv show Big Ron Manager, where former Man Utd boss Ron Atkinson went to Peterborough United to help out a rookie manager with his team? What with Barry Fry (a former manager himself) owning the team and sticking his oar in as well, discipline completely fell apart and the manager ended up quitting. Now imagine the coach and players all have to deal with 50,000 fans all having an actual say, along with the undoubted media spotlight.
In some ways, it’s a fantastic idea and experiment. I’d love to see if what one commenter calls “anarcho-syndicalist” methods of football management could ever succeed (though I’ve also read that similar efforts have been made in other countries).
But Dave Lee’s central point does stand — do you really want your team to be the subject of this experiment? Given the money they’ll have, why didn’t they just start their own non-league team up? Wouldn’t it have been just as much fun to name the team, pick the colours and a club motto, on their own? And that way, no-one else’s club’s heritage would be put at risk in what is, as everyone admits, a pretty wild experiment.