Posts Tagged 'fan ownership'

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.

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?

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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