Possibly as an antidote to the increasingly pervasive influence of big business in football, I have recently joined the over 30,000 football fans from 122 different countries that have invested the modest sum of £35 a year to own our very own football club, Ebbsfleet United.
The members of MyFootballClub.co.uk bought the club for £600,000 in February 2008 and just three months later Ebbsfleet United won the FA Trophy at Wembley, the club’s greatest achievement so far in a history that dates back to 1890.
There are many benefits to this modest investment, far less than the price of a ticket to most Premiership games. I get to actually help pick the team, decide on transfers in and out, get a free match day programme sent to me via email and vote on everything from marketing/promotional strategies to the performance of the manager and the board.
There is also a dedicated forum where I can chat with other football fans about any and all football matters, either about Ebbsfleet or more general issues affecting the game.
Ebbsfleet United are currently mid-table in the Blue Square Premier League, only 4 promotions away from the Premier League, and on something of a high right now. Not only is former Ebbsfleet (then called Gravesend & Northfleet) player Jimmy Bullard, now with Fulham, called up to the latest full England squad for the imminent 2010 World Cup qualifying matches against Andorra and Croatia but the team also has 3 players, goalkeeper Lance Cronin, central defender James Smith and striker Luke Moore in the England C squad.
The club is handily located close to the high speed Eurostar hub Ebbsfleet International, making it easy for the club’s international fanbase to get to the games.
Here is a list of some of the key milestones in the history of the world’s first and only internet community owned football club:-
26 April – My Football Club launches.
31 July – 53,000 register their names and email addresses on the website.
1 August – £250,000 is collected on the first day membership fees are accepted.
10 August – £500,000 is collected in 10 days and MyFootballClub has over 12,000 members.
August to November – Nine football clubs approach MyFootballClub, asking to be purchased.
13 November – A deal in principle is reached to buy Ebbsfleet United (EUFC), from the Blue Square Premier division.
12 February – Members vote to accept Nike’s offer to become the club’s kit and merchandise supplier.
21 February – MyFootballClub members vote to complete the purchase of EUFC for around £600,000. Over 21,000 members from 70 different countries own 75% of the club.
14 March – Members elect seven members onto the My Football Club Society Limited Board.
15 March – EUFC reach Wembley for the first time in their history, beating Aldershot 4-2 over two legs in the FA Trophy Semi Final.
8 April – Members vote to freeze season ticket prices at the club.
9 May – Members travel from over 20 countries to watch the Final, including Australia, America, Canada, Turkey, Croatia, Italy and Sweden.
10 May – EUFC lift the FA Trophy at Wembley after beating Torquay 1-0. Up to 5,000 overseas members watch an online feed provided by the FA and Sky, and over 26,000 Fleet fans at Wembley – old and new – witness the historic victory.
June/July – Ebbsfleet United enjoy record season ticket sales for the 08/09 campaign.
9 June – Members vote to set the weekly playing budget at £10,000.
August – Members and supporters raise £20,000 among themselves to buy striker Michael Gash from Cambridge City.
Most recently the members voted to allow the transfer of star striker John Akinde to Championship side Bristol City for a club record transfer fee of £150,000.
Obviously it remains to be seen if this kind of transfer of power from faceless corporations to grassroots fans can be sustained if and when Ebbsfleet United progress up the league ladder but it is a great feeling to be so intimately involved in the day to day running of a real (as opposed to fantasy) football club.