Wiki FC comes of age
While Abramovich’s autocratic style might dominate top tier football, down in the Blue Square Premier, the last year has seen a quiet revolution in the way clubs are owned and managed.
What’s going on?
February 2009 marks a year under new ownership for Ebbsfleet United. This fact becomes more significant when you consider that Ebbsfleet is the first club in the world to be 100% owned and managed by an online fan community, MyFootballClub.
£35 buys you a stake in the club and the right to vote alongside 30,000 others on everything from kit design and player transfers to team selection. While the club still has a head coach, he is ultimately employed by the fans, who can choose to overrule his judgement if they see fit.
Does It Work?
It’s still early days, but so far the experiment seems to be a success, with Ebbsfleet reaching Wembley for the first time in its history in May 2008, beating Torquay to win the FA Trophy. Like any other business, capital is key and Ebbsfleet’s biggest challenge will be ensuring that enough fans renew their annual memberships and maintain their equity stake in the club.
Development by co-operative might be relatively well-established in the online world, however applying this concept to football clubs is truly disruptive. While Ebbsfleet may never become a world-beating football club, the experiment shows that if properly structured, co-operatives can offer a practical alternative to fickle, autocratic chairmen and leveraging to the hilt.
The concept works in football because of the passion and engagement of ordinary punters. However, that isn’t to say that it couldn’t be a success in other sectors with a high level of public engagement, such as music venues or even restaurants…watch this space.
Ben de Castella