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Where Is The Love? Ebbsfleet United Kicked To The Curb

wagnerlovefleet Where Is The Love? Ebbsfleet United Kicked To The Curb

There’s a financial crisis at an English football club. No, it’s not the obvious candidate of Newcastle United, where Mike Ashley has only just begun to attend games again after the police warned him about threats to his well-being. Not Chelsea, where the Russian oligarch owner seems to hemorrhage billions a day and the English red tops openly challenge that his interest in the SW6 outfit is dropping just as quickly. I’m talking the biggest, most important purchase of 2008: Ebbsfleet United Football Club.

The Blue Square Premiership outfit was the football feel good story of the 2008. After generations of supporters chanting “Sack the board,”“Owners OUT!” and “You don’t know what you’re doing,” over 53,000 myfootballclub.co.uk members joined the cause, decided to put their money where their mouth was, and buy a club. That’s really where the warning signs started to show.

Will Brooks, the creator of myfootballclub.co.uk figured that 50,000 members would establish a war chest of £1.3 million to use toward establishing ownership of a club. While official membership numbers topped 53,000 only about 30,000 eventually ponied up the cash (£35) to make it happen. In fact, when it came time to actually vote on the purchase of “The Fleet,” MyFootballClub.co.uk boasted over 95% support. But that was only 95% of about 18,000 voting members. Only about 35% of the actual members of MyFootballClub.co.uk showed the staying power to actually vote.

Nevertheless, hysteria ran high around the Ebbsfleet purchase, buoyed by press coverage unprecedented for a club so far down the English football league system. With promises of votes to choose everything from kit supplier (Nike decided that the grassroots movement was too good for a multinational to pass up and voters lapped up the offer a swoosh-laden kit) to selecting the weekly lineup, fans of “real football” jumped on board to the tune of 30,000 members. The club even went out and earned their first trip to Wembley, winning the FA Trophy in the process. Emotions were running high.

However, simple math points out that while 30,000 paid up supporters is impressive and almost twice as many as voted for the initial take over, it is still 40% short of the 50,000+ who agreed to pay up before money was actually expected. “Own the club, pick the team” was the rallying cry for owning members, but apparently fewer than 500 actually participated in the vote to decide who gets to pick the team. Thankfully, gaffer Liam Daish was spared the blushes of managerial emasculation, but more concerning is the undeniable fact that the sincerity of the MyFootballClub.co.uk owners was, pardon the pun, “fleeting” from the start.

The Ebbsfleet experiment is now just a shade over a year old. It’s time for owners to renew their membership. Instead of funds, however, it appears that excuses seem to be flowing in.

No doubt, we’re going to hear those two words everyone is sick and tired of hearing: “credit” and “crunch.” The global financial phenomenon that reduced Ashley to only hundreds of millions of pounds, and Roman Abramovich to his last handful of billions will legitimately cost little Ebbsfleet some of its owners. Especially at this time of year, with Christmas bills still sitting in the “to pay” file, finding an extra £35 can be a little tricky. But it would be disingenuous to blame the drop in support entirely on finances. Clearly, the club with a revolutionary ownership scheme is little more than the Christmas puppy who grew up. The novelty has worn off and it just doesn’t seem so cute anymore. If not for the international press, I bet that less than 1% of owners had even heard of Ebbsfleet United before MyFootballClub.co.uk started throwing the name around, and far fewer would have gone so far as to name “the fleet” as their favorite, or even one of their “pet clubs”. The interest was in owning “a” club, not Ebbsfleet, and now that’s it’s time pay up, far too many fair weather fans are abandoning the Fleet.

It is true that the initial purchase helped Ebbsfleet United cover a £500,000 debt, but the false dawn of the irresponsible of the MyFootballClub.co.uk venture has now left the club in a dangerous position of being too big for its budget. If MyFootballClub.co.uk walks away, it will be the Fleet that needs to do some heavy financial bailing. Before long, Ebbsfleet will be back to the financial dire straits it faced just a year ago. With a misleading financial package at the basis of its budget, it won’t be long before they’re in more trouble than ever before.

In the meantime, the MyFootballClub.co.uk “owners” can all get together for a rousing chorus of “We don’t know what we’re doing!” If you can find enough of them.

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17 Responses to Where Is The Love? Ebbsfleet United Kicked To The Curb

  1. Graham Parker says:

    Good article. Unfortunately MyFootballClubs demise have had as much to do with Will Brooks (the founder) not knowing what he was doing and a few power mad plastic football fans not knowing what they were doing, drowning out the voices of people who might genuinely have wanted to do something “revolutionary” to change the football club ownership model as fairweather football fans who couldn’t give a toss about some rundown debt overburdened flabby with expensive staff football club. Ebbsfleet, who?

  2. Lazza says:

    The purchase price was 1.2 million. The club loses 500k per year. Little money has actually gone to the club. It has gone to the prior owners and Brooks in the form of his web site (49 year contract). EUFC has survived so far by the FA trophy money and the sale of Akinde.

  3. doheochai says:

    The demise of MyFC and EUFC is a little premature. Yes Ebbsfleet is not in the ehalthiest financial position. But look at the list of clubs in the BSP that are in financial trouble – and Ebbsfleet United don’t even come near the top of it. Now everyone who ahs renewed will accept that they will ahve to be changes – both in MyFC and EUFC.

    Much more water will pass under the bridge though before any epitaph’s are written.

  4. Graham Parker says:

    doheochai seems confused, for if it is he, and it may well be, as I have read on MyFC has been posting woe and apocalypse on there about the “financial position” for some months.

    As any member of MyFC will be able to confirm the club runs at a current (budgeted) loss of £60k per month. It has a purcahse payment (further) due immediately to the previous owners of 125k, also an undisclosed and uninvoiced but also due bill of circa £40k due to Fleet Group Development (also owned by the previous owner, much fogginess though over the terms). As of yesterday according to emails from the MyFC Web Team the Society has a mere £207k funds on hand. The sums do not add up.

    Cue Mr Doheochai and mass protestations.

    (email saved for refutations of ensuing mass protestations…)

  5. Matt says:

    I joined, ponied up for, voted on resolutions for the club for some time until a raft of financial decisions came in without any p&l strategies, no goal-setting, no suitable forum for actual discussion, etc., etc. A small group of us made attempts to slow decision-making on major financial outlays until strategy, etc. were worked out and approved, but on it went. I’ve since left the club, but in my view it was inevitable.

  6. LS says:

    I think Matt has hit on some key points though it would take many articles to go over the entire history of the past year of EUFC. I hope they do well and I hope the MyFootballClub concept works out for those involved but it’s not for me. I had bought in because of the novelty of the idea but I don’t see myself renewing.

  7. weenie says:

    It’s not as if Ebbsfleet are the only club to have financial difficulties when this is the norm in football, even for Premier League clubs.

    As doheochai says, there will have to be changes, given the inevitable drop in membership – people who signed up originally have moved on, lost interest, that’s no fault of MyFC, that’s just how things are in the real world.

    It’s the same with the voting apathy – people just aren’t interested in voting at the end of the day so why harp on about it and make it out as if it’s so shocking?

    Your post largely shows that you are jealous of Will, that you didn’t think of the idea yourself.

  8. Graham Parker says:

    To someone who isn’t on Will Brooks team Weenie this article doesn’t smack of jealousy but appears balanced and factual. I admire optimism but not blind faith. From the money currently raised from renewals, the funds draw down the club is currently requesting, the next payment to the previsous owners and the few details that MYFC members are privy to regarding other outgoings, most people able to use a calculator will be able to work out that MYFC has no more than £60-£70k left in the bank. When the club loses between £50-£65k a month its not hard to work out that the club is not going to survive until even the end of the season.

    The responsibilty is on members to institute IMMEDIATE cost cuts. Meanwhile comments are being bandied about that MYFC members will have to dig deeper. Perhaps they should, its what responsible owners should do, but then responsible owners usually ensure that they are supplied with all the facts required to make a decision.

    Since the initial vote asking members to agree blindly, not knowing the costs involved, to the purchase, through votes asking members to set the weekly playing budget and being recommended to vote for the highest possible based simply on the advice of people who could not even get the financial returns into Companies House, Inland Revenue or the FSA on time let alone present them to the owners these members have been kept in the dark about the details that have got MYFC and Ebsfleet United to this situation.

    It has become normal practice to attack the person not the comments on MYFC but calling someone “jealous of Will Brooks” in defence of the indefenceable is pathetic.

    The management of Ebbsfleet and the MYFC Society has been shameful, however the last people to be blamed should be the owners. The fault lies squarely at the door of Will Brooks who has fought every step of the way to obscure the financial mis-management he presided over and colluded with David Davies CEO of Ebbsfleet United and the inept and bumbling Society Board who have resigned largely at the 11th hour to avoid the [ass the parcel blame game.

    £50-£65K losses per month.
    £60-£70k left in the bank.
    2 and 1/2 months until the end of the season
    One full year until MYFC can ask for fresh renewals amid a PR Campaign of Spin.

  9. weenie says:

    Meh, you’re entitled to your opinion – yeah, I guess my comment about jealousy is kind of pathetic but so is all the personal Will Brooks bashing. Renewals are occurring every day (it was the bulk occurring on 19th Feb), as are new sign ups. Yes, members may have to dig deeper into their pockets as all owners should, many don’t have a problem with that, if that’s what’s needed for the club’s survival, that’s what we’ll do.

  10. Graham Parker says:

    I kmow Will Brooks takes a certain amount of bashing, why do you think that is? Anyway, try answering some of the important points such as why MYFC have lost 70% of the membership, if you can’t address this failing then why should those who remain stand for the continued abuse of their rights as members,

    Please don’t respond that they are all happy now since that is not evidenced by the outraged discussion following the clubs further demands for money based on no financial information.

    Renewals should be occurring everyday since they are falling due everyday but they are hardly setting the world alight are they?

  11. tomchaps says:

    I think we all agree that bugeting and transparency have been a mess–and yes, doheochai has been consistently warning members about the looming budget crisis, and is well aware of this. Things have actually been improving on that front recently, although it’s too slow. Given current levels, EUFC should make it through the season before running out of money, if nothing changes.

    But the original article is surely not balanced. Noone expected all 50,000+ people who simply signed up on a website to actually pay the money to become members–getting 3/5ths was pretty amazing. Perhaps 10,000 of those thought they were going to buy Leeds or another high-profile team, and never bothered to log in or do anything after Ebbsfleet was chosen. The highest levels of participation have been the initial takeover vote (18,000) and the sale of Akinde (15,000). The rest weren’t fair-weather fans, they weren’t fans at all, and once a non-League team was chosen there was little chance at retaining them.

    So, currently about 10,000 are now members, after the renewal deadline. That’s worse than it should have been–things could have been better managed, for many of the reasons cited above. But I figure MYFC only ever had a chance at keeping the 15-18,000 who actually participated in any fashion the first year.

    EUFC has been too big for its budget since it went full-time a few years ago, and that hasn’t changed. A club that drew 1,000 a game (and now draws 1,300ish) is impossible to sustain at this level without losing money. MYFC has helped–it wiped out the debt, which is huge, and it provides a significant extra revenue stream most clubs don’t have. It may not be enough, but it’s too early to start writing the obituary.

    I, for one, am optimistic. The renewed members are more engaged and committed, know what they were getting into, and are past much of the thrashing about of the first year. It will take some time to find an equilibrium, and that undoubtedly will be with a lower budget.

  12. weenie says:

    If I were more eloquent and could put proper words in a post, I’d have said what tomchaps said!

  13. Graham Parker says:

    Best leave it to tomchaps in future then.

    Hopefully new sign ups will be just as commited when they find out that the Society doen’t have the 30,000 members still listed on the recruitment page. Also that Picking the Team doesn’t happen.

    Way past time the misleading statements and straplines were removed. Surely even websites are subject to the Trade Descriptions Act?

  14. weenie says:

    The recruitment page doesn’t mention 30,000 members. And no, PTT hasn’t happened yet, just that most members prefer Liam to pick the team. It’s a democratic vote.

  15. Graham Parker says:

    Really don’t want to argue with you but it did on the one I’ve seen.

    Meanwhile I suppose the Clubs Chairman John Moules is just being continually misquotedwhen he keeps claiming that MYFC has had 10,000 renewals when in fact its approx. 4500 renewals and 5000 members whos subscriptions are due to run out during the next 12 months including another 1500 by the end of March this year.

    Anyway, thought we’d agreed that tomchaps was going to represent your lobby accurately now? :)

  16. Matthew Cain says:

    I’ve written about my experience of joining as an idealistic enthusiast, becoming disillusioned and then finally drifting away and it seems as though my experience was common with many of the people on here.

    It was a brave experiment but poorly executed: http://blog.matthewcain.co.uk/myfootballclub-a-case-study-of-bad-consultation/

  17. The key sponsor by Eurostar has helped a local team achieve a dream.
    It is shame on you, if you purchased a share last year, then why not this year? Ebbsfleet are just starting out and have made a great effort to win so many games!

    So why are people saying that they are not happy? What you get from somthing, is what they put in. You should remember to mention any suggestions in MyFootBallClub forum?

    The global financial gloom seems to have gone all wrong, why does national entertainment have to take secound place? If corpoarte companies took that view, they would not sell very much? and the world could get kinda boring?

    Another British Blogger!

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