Posts Tagged 'Ebbsfleet United'

Obligatory occasional Ebbsfleet article

Ever since MyFootballClub announced they were taking over Ebbsfleet United, I’ve kept tabs on the situation at Stonebridge Road.

Now that they’ve hit a crunch time in their history, with rival clubs bidding for their star players, I thought it was about time for another Soccerlens piece on them.

Ebbsfleet United: An update

This week, the renewals are due for MyFootballClub.co.uk, the fan website that, last year, brought Conference club Ebbsfleet United. The numbers, so far, do not look good for the club.

Over at Soccerlens I crunch through the numbers and try my best to analyse why there’s been such a drop in membership (if my figures are correct, about 20 thousand won’t renew) and also what this means for the club.

It probably won’t be pretty.

When I first heard about MyFC, I was naturally cynical. I’ve spent enough time watching, reading and reporting on football and have seen enough ambitious and often hare-brained schemes collapse.

MyFC always seemed a bit different.

There was always a chance it would work, that the club would achieved success and, buoyed by that, it attracted legions of more fans and would be able to compete in the league.

There was also a (to me) higher chance that the voting elements, especially fans voting on picking the team, would cause more problems than it was worth. And the idea of a business model based on an unpredictable number of yearly subscribers looked shaky.

That said, even I’m surprised at how quickly things look like they’ve started to go wrong. I always maintained the idea would have short-term success but the acid test would come about two or three seasons down the line. Looks like my estimate was a little out.

Ebbsfleet were owned by fans but not owned by their fans. That, I think, was always going to be a key issue.

Anyway, that’s the article. Read. Comment. Bookmark. Pass it on. And if there’s anything you can add to it, please do.

Gary elsewhere

At Soccerlens: The issues around the John Akinde transfer from Ebbsfleet to Bristol City.

And I got a bad pun in the title.

MyFC for rugby fans

It was only a matter of time before a My Football Club-style experiment found its way into other sports, so it’s no surprise to see the venture Our Rugby Club starting to pick up a few mentions here and there.

But what’s interesting is this isn’t carbon copy of the Ebbsfleet owners’ model. Indeed, the website makes a point of saying:

“Unlike similar ventures in football (My Football Club and The People’s Club), our intention is not to buy a rugby club, but by offering such significant investment, we will all be important stakeholders.

Given that we will not purchase a club outright, we will not have to incur significant legal costs, or be burdened by the practicalities of owning facilities and employing players – instead, all of our money can be put towards improving the existing setup. This should mean that our investment will yield results much more quickly.”

There’s also no direct mention of the controversial pick the team aspect, which is still causing much disquiet among both MyFC members and non-MyFC Ebbsfleet fans. There is a vague mention of having your say in selection matters and in the member’s benefits page, this is expanded to:

  • Opportunity to provide input as to how the money should be spent
  • Access to coaching team for suggestions, ideas, moves, and general observations
  • Access to online member forums to discuss the club, team and performance
  • Rate players, provide match analysis and suggest new players
  • Access to online highlights footage of matches
  • Invitations to attend club social events with other members, fans and players
  • Discounted match tickets
  • Discounts on sponsor products
  • Opportunities to buy International Tickets
  • The chance to participate in a trial match at the start of each season
  • Free Our Rugby Club T-shirt
  • Free Our Rugby Club car sticker

All member benefits will be confirmed once the relationship with a club has been established.

It’s interesting that the language is a lot more tempered and the members input into team selection has the above caveat with no explicit promises to this regard made. The investment rather than outright ownership is also another noteworthy point, as it gives them an escape plan if things go wrong.

Although I’m still sceptical if schemes like this can work, given their membership is largely made up of people with no initial loyalty to whichever club they buy into, Our Rugby Club is the most sensible one that’s come along so far insofar as it appears to offer more flexibility and less potentially problematic promises – like voting on transfers, outright ownership, and pick the team – than MyFC.

That said, it still remains to be seen exactly how far a good coach would welcome the constant interfering and suggestions from members, even if the final decision appears to rest with the coach.

It’s unclear whether they’ve been following the progress of MyFC and noted the problems or mistakes, or have simply decided their model is better, but there’s some form of evolution of the internet fan-owned idea. It may be, and I don’t really have a basis behind this assertion, that rugby fans and the sport in general would be a better fit into the ideals and framework, certainly at grassroots level. Time will tell.

It’s also, indirectly, one of the reasons I can’t see MyFC being sustainable in the long-term in its current guise. At some point, somebody will work out a better, more attractive, more successful way to do things. At that point, what’s stopping a good chunk of MyFC members not renewing their membership and decamping elsewhere?

On blowing your own trumpet and then engaging when somebody else wants a toot

Yesterday I did something I’d, unbelievably, not done before. Every now and then, I churn out something I’d quite like as many people as possible to read, and generate a bit of discussion on, so I go a bit beyond the usual methods of bookmarking on Digg and del.icio.us, and flagging it up on Facebook and Twitter [1].

Yesterday’s piece at Soccerlens on Ebbsfleet was one of those.

I’d put a fair bit of time, research, effort, and thought into discussing where the Kent club go as they prepare for their first full season under the ownership of MyFC, and wanted it to be seen beyond the regular readers, so I took the step of registering for the Ebbsfleet forums and posting a link to it.

So what, many of you will probably respond. You should have done that ages ago. Well, probably. But have you ever spent time on football forums. They can be a terrifying place if you’re not prepared and newcomers flogging their wares tend to get a pretty short shrift. The last thing I wanted to do was to get my audience in a bad mood before they’d even had a chance to read my incoherent ramblings.

I wonder if debutant CiF posters get the same feeling of trepidation when they post their maiden thoughts online?

But I’m glad I did. I don’t know the stats for the article, but it get a fair hearing on the forum and some interesting feedback and discussion surrounding it. There were points raised I’d not thought of and a couple of points that set me straight. In fact engaging in the forum discussion and comments after the article were one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in a long time (although that’s probably an indication that I should get out more).

Now, had I got a less positive reception, would I have felt the same? I don’t know. But I would have still engaged, regardless.

It’s why I’ve always got respect for journalists, such as Roy Greenslade, who are prepared to get involved in the comments to their pieces. It enhances the conversation, and usually earns a respect from the commentators involved. It’s one thing to let off steam behind the keyboard to an article you disagree with. It’s another thing to then have to respond when the journalist takes on board your points and is willing to debate.

I honestly believe the majority of reporters need to be prepared to engage with bloggers and commentators who critique their work (without spending days Googling the internet for negative comments) and occasionally swallowing their pride when one of their pieces gets ripped apart. There’ll be a lot more respect afterwards for joining in the conversation.

[1] It’s worth pointing out I don’t even do these every time. It largely depends on what I’ve written and where it is. I’m not fond of doing the online equivalent of leaping up and down and waiving my work around in the hope that somebody will pat me on my head and tell me how good I am. Partly because I’m never convinced what I do is actually ever, well, any good.

Where do Ebbsfleet go from here (Gary Elsewhere)

Over at Soccerlens I’ve done quite a lengthy piece about where Ebbsfleet United go now as they begin their first close season under the ownership of MyFootballClub.co.uk. Needless to say, I’m still sceptical, but the rough conclusion is if they drop the pick the team option they might be stronger for it.

Go read.

UPDATE: It’s been really interested reading feedback on the Fleet forums and the article itself (wish I could access the MyFC forums but I’m not parting with £35 just for that) and raises points I’d never have thought of. What’s also interesting is the number of people who thinking dropping the Pick The Team element would be a good thing, although it’s hard to tell how representative a sample all the respondents are.

More MyFC

Members of MyFC, the supporters’ website that now owns Ebbsfleet United, have been receiving an email from the club’s manager Liam Daish [1]. The email comes in advance of the not-too-distant time in the future when MyFC members will pick the team.

Daish’s email (assuming he wrote it) on one hand seems like a mixture of the optimistic, the cautious and the brave – there’s not many managers who’d offer to enter into a regular two-way conversation with the fans, although given the nature of MyFC, he’s got little choice. Even so, he offers more olive branches than you’d expect.

But, reading between the lines, the familiar problems and criticisms that have been levelled at the MyFC experiment. Won’t chopping and changing affect the balance of the team? Why should a player put in his all if he knows his selection next week doesn’t lie with the gaffer but 2,000-odd people on the terraces, some of whom may not rate him? What does the manager see in training that we don’t on the pitch? What the hell will the average non-attending MyFC member know about the intricacies of Woking’s tactics?

Now that Ebbsfleet have reached a Wembley final, there’s also an interesting dilemma – do the MyFC owners stay true to their principles or do they defer to Diash at a crucial time. If they do the first, isn’t that undermining the manager? If they do the latter, why the hell have their members paid £35?

And at the bottom of the email is a little poll:

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

So, let me get this straight? You’re asking people who paid to join the experiment to vote to continue one of the key attractions and principles behind signing up before you’ve even put it into practice? And if members vote for anything bar the first option, why on earth should anybody carry on paying their £35 if they’ve got no connection to the club? And where will that leave Ebbsfleet?

I’ll still give it about three years, max.

Anybody want to guess what this week’s Soccerlens piece will be on? 

UPDATE: I’ve just seen on Ebbsfleet forums that the poll isn’t a binding vote. In which case, what’s the point of it? And if the majority of members vote for Daish to continue picking the team, doesn’t that leave the MyFC leadership in a pretty untenable position?

[1] WSC isn’t the only place I’ve seen the email, it’s been doing the rounds elsewhere.


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