Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Cel-Ebb-rate Good Times...

I never claimed to be good at puns. Sue me.

And so it has been announced today that the club formerly known as Gravesend and Northfleet FC have agreed in principle to be taken over. For once, there are no Russian oligarchs or American billionaires in sight. This week, the recently renamed Ebbsfleet United have been purchased by a website!

Yes, just when we thought we'd cracked this Internet thing, we wake up to the news that a professional football club is now owned by cyberspace.

MyFootballClub.co.uk and it's 20,000 members have set a ground-breakig precedent in their aquisition of the Blue Square Premier side.

For those that dont know the background, the website was set up by fans as a recruitment drive for like-minded individuals who, basically, wanted to run a football club. The cost? Just £35 to have a say in club matters, transfers and even team selection.

Many clubs were mooted such as targets for a potential takeover. Most of which were scambling around the lower echelons of English football but the likes of Nottingham Forest and Leeds United were also considered.

It's no secret that the game has seen many changes over the years. More money has flooded into the game, ticket prices are incresing and there are "too many of'em foriegners aba'at!" Last week, Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe told us that footballers - particularly at top-flight level - are losing touch with the common man. The disillusioned Common man, it seems, is fighting back. Revolution, Ebbsfleet is thy name.

Rather than pay £5 for pies at the Emirates or Old Trafford, these lovers of the game are going back to it's roots. Terracing, paper tickets, waterlogged pitches and the closest thing to a corporate box being the covered seating section.

But what of Ebbsfleet's 'real' fans? How will they feel about about a bunch of interlopers playing real-life Championship Manager with their club? What happens when the inevetable split over decision-making occurs? What about if/when the club becomes a success? What is stopping many of the 'fans' selling their stake to the highest bidder? If Ebbsfleet get to league 1 or even the Championship in years to come, the value of the club will sky-rocket and isn't your 35 quid now worth a lot more?

In theory, the idea of a fan-run football club is a fantastic idea and I may even be tempted to sacrifice £35 myself and get involved. However, i'd be interested to see how practical it would be in the long-term. As I said, 'Bigger' clubs Leeds and Forest were mentioned to great derision from thier fans. Could you imagine, as a Forest fan, a bunch of Derby/Liecester/County fans sabotaging your club from the inside and you being powerfless to stop them? "Top Scorer? 20 goals last season? Stick him in goal. If he doesn't like it fine him and stick him on the transfer list" Nightmare!

Personally, I wish them all the best and might even head down to Kent to In an ideal world, this would be the future. Fans, rather than money-grabbing chairmen in charge of the football clubs. Sadly, the real world is money-driven and besides, 20.000 people making decisions on transfers and the like? What if all the votes aren't in before matchday or midnight on transfer deadline day? I very much doubt the idea will catch on.

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