Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hey! Wanna Buy a Soccer Team?

Have you ever sat around with friends bitching about the management of your favorite sports team? Well, here's your chance to put your money where your mouth is and jump into the sports management business.

Ebbsfleet United is a soccer club in Northfleet, England which is east of London near the mouth of the Thames. They currently play in the English fifth division called the Blue Square Premier League (previously known as the football conference) where they sit in 9th (out of 24 teams) and six points out of the promotion playoffs.

Here's the fun part...this week, it was announced that the 20,000 members of the website MyFootballClub are each going to pay £35 a year and buy a 51% controlling stake in Ebbsfleet United. That's a little over $1.4M at the current exchange rate. The members will then be asked to pay an additional £35 a year to maintain their membership. That'll pour another $1.4M into the team each year. In fact, their goal is to increase the membership to 53,000 which would mean $3.8M annually for the club in addition to their traditional revenue sources.

Basically, for a fifth division team, that's a boatload of money for a club to play with. They'll be able to buy players they never would dream of touching with their current financing.

Now, here's where it really gets cooking...your membership at MyFootballClub gives you the right to vote on various team decisions. The fans will vote on the team's lineup and tactics for each match, which players to buy and sell, how to divide the annual budget and whether the coaches and staff should be fired or not. The head coach will post his impressions of the players, how they trained over the week and scouting reports of their next opponents and then the fans can either support his recommendations or vote for entirely different players and tactics. The results will then be delivered to the coach who will be tasked with implementing them without exception.

This truly puts the fans in control of the club. I think it's a fantastic experiment and I would be surprised if they didn't get promoted to the next division by the end of their next full season. Just the money alone should be enough to get them up to the fourth division (English League Two).

There's a full FAQ explaining how it will work on the club's website. The three key things for me is that 1) anyone in the world can join the ownership pool, 2) nobody is ever allowed to buy more than one membership and 3) profits from the club are automatically rolled back into the club. That's exactly how I'd like to see this model work.

So, I'm going to add a membership in MyFootballClub to my Christmas list and ride Ebbsfleet United to the Premiership.


Rick said...

I posted about this on SportsFilter in April. A bunch of SpoFi members bought shares and now own a part of the team.

Michael K. said...

As a fellow owner, I welcome you aboard ;)

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