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sábado, noviembre 08, 2008

Ebbsfleet United!!! My Football Club!!!!

Ebbsfleet (in red) Beats Torquay in the FA Trophy Final

Imagine my surprise, when today's New York Times reported on Ebbsfleet United, the football (that's soccer to the gringos) club that is owned by its fans, including me. The Times writes:

LONDON — Wembley Stadium is usually the stage for some of the most glamorous names in soccer, yet 26,000 spectators were there in May, most of them clad in red and white to support tiny Ebbsfleet United in a cup final match against Torquay United. It was an incredible turnout for such a small team, considering that many had never heard of it until a few months earlier, when they got together over the Internet and decided to buy it.

Watching from the stands was Will Brooks, the architect of one of the world’s most unusual sports experiments.

“Twelve months ago this was all a dream, and now we’ve gone to Wembley,” he said.

For Brooks and the rest of Ebbsfleet’s fans/owners, the trip was a success. Their team prevailed, 1-0, and won the F.A. Trophy for English soccer’s equivalent of minor league clubs — the biggest prize in Ebbsfleet’s 116-year history.

Brooks, a 37-year-old former advertising copywriter, set up a Web site in 2007 called that asked a simple question: how many people would be interested in pooling their money to buy a soccer club, so that ordinary fans could vote on every decision, from uniform design to player selection? More than $400,000 was raised on the first day of public registration.

The Web fantasy became reality when members voted in February to take over Ebbsfleet United, a tiny, unsuccessful club in southeast England, for slightly less than $1 million.

MyFootballClub has about 31,000 members/owners from all over the world (including the author of this article), all of whom pay an annual subscription of about $60 to be a member of the nonprofit trust that owns “the Fleet.”

And most important, one of the 31,000 members/owner from all over the world is your truly.

Why would somebody do this, you might ask? Why would somebody spend the princely sum of $60 +/- per year to own a share of a professional sports team, especially an English football team that is four five divisions below the Premier League? And why would somebody proudly wear an owner/manager t-shirt for Ebbsfleet?

This is the kind of thing that, if you don't get it instantly, it's very hard to explain. It might even be impossible to explain if it doesn't light you up on hearing it.

I love the game. I love the game in its disorganized, pick up form, and in its most star filled, regimented, corporate package. I love the game when the ball is made of rags and duct tape. I love the game when it's played before 50,000 screaming fans. And I love the game at all the spots in between. I'd rather watch re-runs of Boca Juniors playing River Plate in the rain in a scoreless tie than most professional US football (pigskin) games.

So the chance to play a new role in the game, as if I were a small scale Sir Alex or George Steinbrenner or Roman Abramovich, is just delicious. It's fantastically exciting! Let's face it, I can make some room in the upper arcana of teams I like to follow for Ebbsfleet United, of which I am a proud owner.

And to top it off, I'm delighted to bring this kind of inexpensive, democratic ownership to sport. After all is said and done, Ebbsfleet United is a great experiment and I want to see it succeed. It's something great that the Internet has made possible. Its success will inspire other groups of people to own other clubs. We will slowly take ownership of the sport back from the undeserving, spoiled, greedy billionaires, spread it around, and make it a widespread, public phenomenon.

You can get involved in this too. Click this.

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