Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When My Football Club launched in August 2007 it had many grand ideas that attracted football fans the world over.

The aim of owning an English club side and having an active participation in the day to day affairs excited many. Three years on though and many are disillusioned.

The fact is though that they shouldn't be.

I was almost tempted to take part in the experiment myself, opting instead to continue to give my money to the East Fife Supporters Trust and the AFC Wimbledon Dons Trust. To me, supporters trusts are the ONLY way forward for football fans to have an active voice in established football clubs.

And there lies the key to this whole situation.

When many joined MYFC I think it was on the hope that the scheme would purchase an existing Football League Club and preferably a big name.

It was originally hoped to attract 50,000 members to MYFC. Initial interest registered garnered just over this and by the time that paid membership started to be taken, the scheme hit a high of around 31,000 members. According to Wikipedia membership is now down to around 4,000.

Part of the reason for this decline can be put down to natural loss of interest amongst the punters but another big reason is probably due to the fact that MYFC ended up buying a non league football club in Ebbsfleet United. Not a name or scenario to excite thousands of people worldwide, although one that would make someone like myself a lot more interested.

The other thing that put many off was the actual involvement in the day to day decisions of running the club weren't what many had hoped. They couldn't pick the team basically.

As if that was likely to happen at any top level football club, even the top level non league ones.

For schemes like this to really thrive, and even let the paying members pick the team, you need to start a club from scratch. You can't buy into an existing club and expect the existing board and fans to let a bunch of strangers around the world tell you how things should be done. No manager in their right mind would also take such a job if he had no say on team selection.

Members of MYFC need to accept that. Many didn't and haven't continued membership.

When an existing club is bought what you have to remember first and foremost is the existing fan base. They are the lifeblood of the club and it's them, not a bunch of anonymous members who should be listened to and that why Supporters Trusts are the only way to go in cases like this.

This week's BBC Non League Football Show ran an interesting documentary on the whole My Football Club phenomena (from 38 minutes in). The good times and bad and the logistics and realities of it all. Well worth a listen, especially Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish's thoughts on it all.

For those that do want more hands on ownership, especially if picking the team appeals to your senses of "real" fantasy football, then the way to go is for newly established clubs that have set up solely under MYFC type schemes and the very low level established ones that have gone down that route. There's a few out there.

I would point you towards AFC Hull though.

AFC Hull currently play at level 10 of the English non league pyramid (14 in Football League terms) in the East Riding Amateur League Premier Division, having won the First Division in their first ever season in 2008/09.

I've just become an owner and best of all, it's entirely free to join up at present.

It's a long way to go to the top, but it would be one hell of an interesting ride to get there.

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