Own the club, pick the team.
|Type of site||Industrial and Provident Society and Internet forum|
|Owner||MyFootballClub Society, Ltd.|
|Created by||Will Brooks|
|Launched||26th April 2007|
|Alexa rank||1,295,065 (August 2012[update])|
MyFootballClub is an English Industrial and Provident Society that sought, starting in August 2007, to recruit at least 50,000 football enthusiasts from across the world to purchase an English association football club. MyFootballClub's premise is to allow its paid members to control the club through a democratic voting process conducted over the internet. Member voting includes matters both on the pitch, such as team selection and player transfers, and off the field, like what type of food to serve at the stadium.
On 23 January 2008, 95.89% of MyFC members had agreed to the purchase of a 75% share in Ebbsfleet United F.C., thereby authorising MyFC's purchase of that club. With its purchase of a majority share of Ebbsfleet United, MyFootballClub became the first online community to fully run a professional sports club in history.
MyFC was engineered by former football journalist Will Brooks. Brooks initially estimated MyFC's purchase fund at £1,375,000 if 50,000 people were to sign up as members. All members have voting rights on certain decisions in the club purchased by MyFC and they will collectively manage that club, by making many of the decisions usually made by the manager and others, through a voting system on the MyFootballClub website. However, they do not actually hold any shares. The watershed figure of 50,000 registrations expressing interest in participation was passed on 31 July 2007, with a total of 53,051 registrations completed at that time. At that point, MyFC began collecting payments from those who had registered as well as any new people who signed up subsequently, opening what MyFootballClub described as "phase 2". Paid-up members would participate in a non-binding vote on takeover preference, with Leeds United initially leading the member voting, followed by Cambridge United and Nottingham Forest.
Brooks had said that the club purchased would likely be playing in Football League Two or the Conference National, and MyFootballClub's managers had opened talks with a number of clubs from those leagues. Negotiations between MyFC and various football clubs remained secret during this period due to the confidential nature of the purchase discussions and because of the number of different clubs involved. Also around this time, EA Sports, the sports simulation video games division of Electronic Arts, agreed to a deal with MyFootballClub that "will be supporting us with a significant investment" to boost the group's football club purchasing fund.
On 6 August 2007 it was revealed that four clubs had approached MyFootballClub about the possibility of a sale. Shortly thereafter, The Independent reported that MyFootballClub had raised approximately £500,000 in the first 20 days it had been collecting funds from members to purchase a football club. On 3 September 2007 it was reported that Halifax Town had approached MyFootballClub in an attempt to save the football club from a winding-up order over unpaid taxes. In May 2008, it became public that the other two clubs besides Ebbsfleet United that MyFC had come closest to purchasing were League Two's Mansfield Town and Leigh RMI, then of the Conference North.
On 13 November 2007, MyFootballClub announced that it had agreed in principle to purchase Conference National club Ebbsfleet United, which had been known as Gravesend and Northfleet F.C. until early in 2007. Ebbsfleet United was chosen out of the nine football clubs that approached MyFC about a possible purchase. A process of due diligence was entered into, with "lawyers and the accountants...looking through the books and the accounts to make sure there are no skeletons in the cupboards."
On 16 January 2008, MyFootballClub publicly announced the terms of its proposed purchase of Ebbsfleet United and put the terms of the sale to a vote of its members. MyFC members had seven days to register their opinion on the club's £635,000 takeover. For the sale to be finalised, 50% of the votes cast had to be in favour, with no quorum required. 18,112 MyFC members voted on the takeover, with 95.89% (17,368 members) in favour of purchasing a controlling stake in Ebbsfleet United.
"Everyone has worked wonders to get this club into the top half of the Conference. We all agree the club needs something extra to take it to the next step. As a football fan, I think the MyFootballClub idea is fantastic. And as the coach, I look forward to the challenge of working with thousands of members to produce a winning team. Alan Kimble and myself are 100% committed to making this work." 
Opinions on the proposed deal were mixed, as Daish's view was echoed by some football fans, but others, including some people currently involved with the sport, were less sanguine about MyFootballClub's involvement with Ebbsfleet United. Even some football insiders were positive about MyFC's proposed purchase of Ebbsfleet, however, including a representative of Brentford, who told CNN that the deal was " a very positive move for football because the club is owned by people who have real passion for it."
Following the approval of the purchase of Ebbsfleet United by the members of MyFC in January 2008, the leadership of MyFootballClub stated that its members would be able to make decisions affecting the club in future, including picking the starting lineup for matches, but a later members' vote resulted in a decision to leave selection issues to head coach Liam Daish. Ebbsfleet United's first trip to Wembley Stadium, and victory in the 2008 FA Trophy added to the publicity for the project, but questions about an internet society owning a football club remained.
In August 2008, members of MyFootballClub were presented with the type of choice usually reserved for small board of directors: whether to approve a transfer of a player to another club. Ebbsfleet received a £140,000 offer from an unnamed club for forward John Akinde, and as the members of MyFC are the legal owners of the Fleet, they voted on whether to accept that offer. Shortly after the vote for members was publicly announced, it was reported that Championship side Bristol City had made the offer for Akinde. On 29 August 2008, MyFC members approved Akinde's transfer by more than an 82% percent majority.
Even with the £150,000 realised from the Akinde transfer, plus possible add-on fees, Ebbsfleet's financial situation is precarious notwithstanding the investment of funds from MyFC. The Fleet faces an estimated annual loss of approximately £800,000, and MyFC's monetary contribution may not be able to cover the deficiency. Some commentators have noted that participation in votes on the MyFC website has decreased since the initial takeover vote, and if members do not renew their MyFC memberships, it will reduce the funds available for MyFC to invest in Ebbsfleet United.
It was reported in November 2009 that an estimated 23,000 members that had originally signed up prior to the takeover of Ebbsfleet F.C. no longer visited the site, nor contributed towards memberships, leaving around 9,000 active members. By the time of the next membership renewal date, it emerged that the renewal rate had fallen to 20%, with only 800 out of a previous 4000 members still subscribing.
In the close season prior to the 2012-13 season, the membership stood at roughly 1300. A significant drop from the 32,000 peak, but still an active community which support the club both financially and in terms of time. An example of this continued contribution to the club was in June 2012, where the society paid for a new piece of important equipment for the groundsman Peter Norton.
Over time, the challenges that MYFC have had to compete with have been immense. Over the ten years Ebbsfleet have played at Conference National level the league has been populated with traditionally much larger clubs, such as Luton Town who enjoy average attendances which regularly top 6000. These full-time clubs, along with non-league clubs who possess enormous budgets have made competing at the level of football Ebbsfleet play at very difficult for any club who attempt to budget sensibly. Despite this, during MYFC's control Ebbsfleet have managed to hold their own overall. Relegated to the Conference North in 2009-10, they achieved a promotion back to the national level at the first time of asking in the 2010-11 and in the 2011-12 season finished a respectable 14th; above many clubs with average attendances that dwarfed their own. Despite criticisms of the ownership model which point at a decrease in membership numbers, under it Ebbsfleet have so far survived relatively unscathed in a period of turbulence at the level of football they play. In recent years clubs Ebbsfleet have faced over their period in the Conference such as Halifax Town A.F.C., Chester F.C., Darlington F.C., Weymouth F.C., Northwich Victoria F.C., Kettering Town F.C., Grays Athletic F.C., Rushden & Diamonds F.C., Salisbury City F.C. and Scarborough F.C. have all faced financial problems with one way or another have contributed to them dropping out of the league. The hope is that the society can continue running Ebbsfleet within their means and with initial issues sorted, begin to grow membership numbers again to push the club on.
On 23 April 2013 it was announced that MyFC's members had voted in favour of handing two thirds of MyFC's shares to the Fleet Trust, a supporters' trust for the club, and the final one third to one of the club's major shareholders (believed to be former club chairman Phil Sonsara).
Membership and worldwide reach
|This article is outdated. (June 2012)|
MyFootballClub members come from over 70 countries. One of the regions in which MyFootballClub was most popular was Scandinavia, and by the end of October 2007, MyFC had 380 paying members from Norway, 280 from Sweden, 97 from Finland, and 88 from Denmark. By January 2008, over 1,500 Americans had become paid members of MyFootballClub.
Additionally, non-English members of MyFC began to attend matches of Ebbsfleet United. For example, on 5 January 2008, at Ebbsfleet's home match against Weymouth, MyFC members that hailed from Berlin, Copenhagen, and Florida were in attendance.
Media outlets from all over the world have also shown a continuing interest in the project, including news organizations from Australia, Chile, Germany, India, Italy, Sweden, the United States, and Vietnam.
By 14 May 2008, paid-up membership in MyFC reached 30,000 people. The 31,000th paid-up member joined on 11 September 2008.
The first renewal date for most members was 19 February 2009. By 23 February total membership stood at slightly less than 9,500.
As of March 2010, the membership total stands at around 4,000, with just 800 renewing of the remainder of the existing 9,500 up for renewal in February 2010.
As of March 2013, the membership has dropped to below 1000 members
Projects that are similar to MyFootballClub exist in both England and in at least 11 other countries. The ownership of the semi-professional English football club Biggleswade United inaugurated myBUFC in September 2007, which aims to put the management of that club in the hands of paid-up members, both on and off the field, in a way similar to MyFootballClub. The People's Club was launched in October 2007 and is a similar scheme looking to allow fans to acquire and run a lower-level English football club. Ownaclub.com, a comparable project founded in 2009, has a similar objective with the key difference being that rather than requiring fans to pay an annual subscription, a one off payment secures a permanent share of any acquired club. One of the latest projects in the UK is Mydalefc, planning to start a new Woking based football club on level 10 of the English football league system, the project starting March 2013 asks fans to contribute £20 allowing them to help make decisions about the club ahead of its registering with the Surrey County Football Association, planned to happen between late 2014 and early 2015. The fans are planned to own atleast a 20% share in the club, Mydalefc plans to have 500 to 1000 payments, giving the club £10,000 to £20,000 pounds from fan payments only.
Another UK-based project is Fivepoundfootballclub, an active community which aims to take charge of a lower league club in the UK, excluding England due to the higher cost required for success in that country. Members are required to donate £5 to the investment fund on joining. As of June 2011, this community had drawn up a shortlist for investment consisting of four clubs in the Welsh League system.
Projects outside the UK include:
- Brazil: MTDF, or "Meu Time de Futebol," was launched in January 2008 with the aim of acquiring a club in the second tier of Brazilian football by the end of 2008.
- Denmark: Mitsuperligahold, which was launched in August 2007 with the aim of acquiring a club in the second tier of professional Danish football, the First Division.
- France: Web F.C. allows its members, called "entraînautes," to vote on strategic and tactical decisions relating to a lower-level French club in the Ligue de Basse-Normandie through a website. Unlike MyFootballClub's members, members of Web F.C. do not have to pay a fee to participate in the decision-making, but the more they participate, the more value his or her vote is accorded.
- Germany: Deinfussballclub.de was launched in April 2008 with the aim of acquiring 49% of SC Fortuna Köln; a club that plays in the German Oberliga Nordrhein-Westfalen, a lower-level professional league.
- Israel: Web2Sport currently operates Hapoel Kiryay Shalom, a Tel Aviv club that plays in Liga Gimel, the sixth tier of Israeli football. Web2Sport allows voting on numerous club functions, including the composition of the club's starting lineup.
- Italy: Squadramia, which was started in January 2008, is an online community that seeks 20,000 members to buy an Italian football club. In late 2008 the web community purchased Santarcangelo Calcio 1926 a team in the Italian Serie D, the fifth tier of the Italian football system.
- Japan: Fujieda MYFC is a team playing in the Japanese regional leagues funded by online subscribers. The team which is based in Fujieda, Shizuoka, is the first of its kind in Japan.
- Poland: KupimyKlub.pl is a Polish project, was launched in May 2008. The purchase of the club is planned for season 2008/09 in the Polish league.
- Romania: Clubulmeudefotbal started on 7 July 2007 as an online community that seeks 50,000 members that are willing to pay an annual membership fee of 50 Euros and aims to buy a Romanian football club.
- Russia: MyFootballClub.ru has a proposed start date of 2007-12-10, but is not affiliated with MyFC.
- Spain: miclubdefutbol.com proposes to raise funds and buy a Spanish lower league club, as does Mi Equipo Favorito, which was launched in January 2008 with the aim of acquiring a club in a Spanish league.
- United States: In 2007, two efforts to crowd-own a team were underway, but have since become dormant: MySoccerClubUSA, which would have allowed fans who pay a fee to join a website which will start a club from scratch to play in either the United Soccer Leagues (USL) or the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), and SaveTheVictory.org, which attempted to raise enough money to purchase the now-defunct San Francisco-based USL club, California Victory.
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