The 200% Podcast 13: FOUL!
The Power Of Discretion And Why Guidelines Are… King
Steven Gerrard, The Media & Liverpool’s Structural Issues
The Twohundredpercent Podcast LIVE!
Where, Exactly, Do Queens Park Rangers Go From Here?
End Of Season Ennui
The 200% Podcast 12 – General Election Special
Saturday Night On Channel Five For The Football League
The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
Rape, Disrespect & Fury: The Oyston Family & Blackpool FC
Is It Time For A New Football Club For Newcastle?
Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
It’s difficult to imagine anything that more succinctly captured the perils of the modern game than the MyFootballClub takeover of BSP club Ebbsfleet United. The takeover, which was completed this time last year to a largely unquestioning media fanfare, has proved to be not far short of an unmitigated disaster, with the number of MyFC subscriptions having slumped to well below the level at which the Society which runs the club may have to give up control of the club. Indeed, the levels of returning subscribers have been so low that there is even a possibility that the club may have to enter into administration unless it can rein in its currently uncontrollable losses.
It did look briefly as if those of us in cynics corner might be wrong. Ebbsfleet flirted with a place in the BSP play-offs last season and won the FA Trophy at Wembley. However, disenchantment at the way that the organisation was being run grew and grew, an atmosphere of civil war developed on the site’s forum (leading to numerous members being banned from it), and this malaise spread around the entire project. In a sudden about turn of policy, one of the main selling points of MyFC membership, the right for members to pick the team rather than the manager, was put to a vote, but only after an impassioned plea from head coach Liam Daish (which, since it was sent out through official club channels, one can only assume was officially sanctioned) it was eventually voted down.
It is fair to say the the Ebbsfleet has had everything going for it that the organisers could have hoped for. The club received global media attention, which was almost universally positive. Although Ebbsfleet failed to reach the BSP play-offs, making the final of the FA Trophy gave them another massive publicity boost. They beat Torquay United 1-0 at Wembley, with it being widely reported that “26,000 Ebbsfleet supporters” had turned out to support the team. It was at this time that membership of MyFC peaked at just over 32,000 members. The club also benefitted from the sale of striker John Akinde to Bristol City for £140,000 at the end of August. Just these two events on their own are highly significant for a non-league club. Each of them are revenue streams which might ordinarily only come up once or twice every ten years or so for a club of Ebbsfleet’s size. Somehow, though, MyFC managed to squander these cash injections in just a year. Their estimated losses for the last season are said to be in the region of £800,000. There is no question whatsoever that these are circumstances (even with new memberships giving them a small boost, the black hole seems likely to be something like £500,000) which cannot be allowed to continue.
MyFC has always been big on spin and low on transparency. As such, the exact current membership level is a difficult figure to come by, though the current figure is believed to be a shade over 9,000. Those of you with long memories may remember that MyFC’s cut off point – the point at membership levels become theoretically too low for the project to be viable – was 15,000 members. The well being of MyFC, however, should not be anyone’s major concern at the moment. Some people may not get to play Championship Manager in the real world. Some people may lose – or already have lost – £35. Such is life. For one group of people, however, the ramifications of the last twelve months could be ruinous. This group is the one group of people that have been ridden roughshod over, and who will now most likely be left to pick up the pieces after the part-time supporters, internet entrpreneurs and visionaries have left Stonebridge Road for the last time – the supporters of Ebbsfleet United Football Club. These supporters have been let down by everybody. They have been let down by MyFC, who have been proved to be incompetent in their running of the club. They were let down by their own Supporters Trust, whose supine reaction to events (in spite of a terse public statement against the whole concept by Supporters Direct when it was announced) was to accept it and take a seat on the new board of the club.
Will Brooks, the founder of the project, was reported in The Guardian as saying “Technically, yes, the club’s bank account is at zero”, whilst Fleet Trust’s Jessica McQueen says that, “There are a lot of people who have paid their money but would be willing to pay a lot more money, for example £250 for their yearly subscription” in order to plug the financial shortfall, which seems optimistic to say the least. No matter which way you look at it, the figures don’t add up. Brooks’ initial aim was 50,000 members. He currently has lss than one fifth of that number. At it’s peak, he had 32,000 members. He currently has less than one third of that number. His own break even point was 15,000 members. He currently has just over half of that number. MyFC should accept that this project is failing and, rather than hanging on grimly in the hope that things will get better, hand over control of the club to someone else and promise never to set foot in Kent again. Then, perhaps, Ebbsfleet United can regroup. They may have to go part-time, and they even may have to drop a couple of divisions over time, but they will at least have a sustainable club which may be able to climb the ladder again.
Gary Andrews at Soccerlens
The Daily Telegraph
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
An interesting article, and like most they include the term “championship manager” used only as a slur to describe the membership, but never at the operator Mr Will Brooks who dreamed the tagline up.
“Own the club pick the team” members may have signed up to do one or the other or even both, but you can’t get away from the fact that 32,000 football fans gave a massive cash injection to a club in financial turmoil.
EUFC were heading for part time football BEFORE myfc came along, and EUFC had ridden roughshod over their own fans long before the takeover, but it dosn’t warrent a mention.
But rather than find the real reasons why this has been a failure you reserve your spite to the good people who collectively put £1.2 million into the club!
How did you describe them….”part-time supporters, internet entrpreneurs and visionaries” who only put in £35 oh well such is life.
No word about the EUFC board who were responcible for a debt of over £600,000 and leaking money at an alarming rate.
And no word about Mr Brooks who took £250,000 in operator fee’s in the first year, the only person to gain out of the deal, but paid with other peoples money of course…..not to worry its only £35 oh well such is life.
No mention of the fact that “Own the club, pick the team” is still up on the MYFC website and continue to push their year-old marketing spiel without updating it to advice future ‘buyers’ that they’re not going to find what they’re being promised (it’s called being honest and transparent as opposed to knowingly misleading your customers)
Its only £35 oh well such is life!
You hit on some very good points about transparency and the secretive way in which the operator and web team deny the membership information. And how they banned members purely for asking questions the powerful elite didn’t want to answer.
But when it comes round to blame, im sorry but you ridicule the wrong people, 23,000 people who didn’t renew sent a poweful message to Mr Brooks and his web team bullies, they didn’t get what it said on the tin.
They didn’t have any meaningful votes, they didn’t own the club or pick the team. They paid £35 for access to a forum.
oh well such is life!
Do any of you know how to do research? Every other article I’ve read about the whole concept carries quotes and by the way these are not quote like “Will Brookes, who told the Guardian…” these are actual quotes that the journalist involved actually went out and got by speaking to real people.
You talk about the disaffected members who received bans. You put no number on them. You make it sound like it was thousands, it was about 20.
These were people who did not have the best interests of the club at heart; one of these people ran onto the pitch and was then ejected from the ground in our match away at Northwich Victoria last season. Oh yeah, exactly the sort of people we would like to attract. Among the rest were some people who were at our League match with Crawley Town earlier in the season. About five of them turned up for this match and when Crawley scored they all cheered. Are these really the sort of people that we want at the club? When we managed a late come back, 2 goals in the last ten minutes they quickly left. We won the game 2-1 and they didn’t look very happy.
When a club goes out of business then questions are asked about how things were allowed to get so bad. Let’s take Weymouth for example. Yesterday they lost 9-0 at home to Rushden and Diamonds. Weymouth had to play their youth team as the rest of the players walked out as they were not being paid. Weymouth has some financial difficulties and hasn’t been making any money for months. They got screwed over by a businessman who sought nothing but financial gain for himself. The people that were banned received exactly what they deserved. They were not interested in the football club and were only interested in what they could get out of it for themselves. I think you can stop the sob story now, they didn’t want what was best for the football club and they got found out for what they are. One of these people was a fan of Exeter City. She joined MyFC and fell in love with the club. When she was found out she lost contact with the club and started supporting Hornchurch, then Lancaster City, now she’s started up a club at Edgware, where will it end? She is a very sad and lonely individual who craves the attention of others and when she doesn’t get what she wants she moves on. What would have happened if we let these people continue to be involved with the club? Perhaps a similar situation to what has happened at Weymouth? We have a very good youth setup but even that would be too much.
What you probably should have done is tried a little bit more research and asked the fans what they think. Try the clubs official forum, http://www.eufc.co.uk. That is the only place that will give a balanced view. You note that I say “official”, don’t worry this is not some mouth piece for the club. You’ll get your far share of MyFC bashing on there. This week someone posted a quote from a MyFC member who was calling for Daish, the manager, to be sacked. He thought he had this authority as because he is an “owner”. Now I think personally that this guy is entitled to his opinion, as wrong as it might be. The official forum has all sorts of characters, some pro and some anti MyFC. But each and every one of the people who post there wants what’s best for the football club. Not like the glorified and failed double glazing salesman that you probably spoke to.
You could have even given me a call. I want what is best for Ebbsfleet United. If one day that happens to be that we shed MyFC and discard it as a loss then so be it, this is business. It hopefully though it won’t come to that. Hopefully in five years time we’ll have a healthy number, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000, all paying a subscription, monthly or yearly in order to stay in touch with the club. This is what I always anticipated year two subscriptions to be. Not the 15,000 that you reached far back into your memory to uncover. That number was never quoted by anyone, 2,000 was the number of renewals needed for the venture to be viable so we’ve excelled ourselves.
Although this is not the only fact that, in the article, that turned out to fiction. An unmitigated disaster you say? Excuse me but I think you’ll find that the MyFC model helped push us to a Wembley win last year. We also voted on what kit we should have, the sale and the buying of a player, plus with MyFC’s help we raised £20,000 to buy Michael Gash from Cambridge City, the clubs current top scorer. Really a disaster you say?
You even say that the fact that we voted against PTT the team was a turn of policy. Excuse me but how can a vote in project where democracy is the main selling point, be a turn of policy? People sign up and then they vote; that’s the whole idea. MyFC members can pick the team whenever they like if they choose. About 400 maximum have ever decided to do so. About 700 have voted against it and 31,000 couldn’t care less. Amongst the 31,000 there are those people that still want to be a part of the club and want to see the venture work. If this part of the venture was such a disaster then how comes we have more than 1,100 sign ups? That doesn’t make sense. It’s quite clear to me that people are no longer signing up because they got interested then uninterested in the whole idea. There’s a recession out there and money is tight. £35 for a venture like this is something that could make all the difference; people decided that putting food on the table was slightly more important. Then you had the idiots who actually thought we were going to buy Leeds United, a club that was touted early on in the project as being the target club to take over.
Also you say that reaching Wembley and winning the FA Trophy would be a massive cash boost for us. Indeed it was but shortly after last years May final I read an article that reported that neither of the previous year’s finalists had yet received their money from the 2007 final. So perhaps then it’s a case of not being paid yet, I don’t know. Also, you say the cash injection from the sale of John Akinde was something that a club at our level can only expect to see happen about once every ten years, yeah, I wish it was that frequent. Can I just ask where you’re getting your figures from? And also do you have anything to back up this piffle? And where did you get this from “Their estimated losses for the last season are said to be in the region of £800,000.” So you don’t know then? “Are said” and “in the region of” are pretty loose and empty statements to hang an article on, wouldn’t you say?
C’mon, admit it. You joined up early on, thought we were going to buy Leeds and when we bought a club that is named after a train station you’ve sought to bring the whole thing down. You’ve got nothing to base your article on, just made up facts “in the region of” and quotes from other publications that could have been said in any context. It’s not just a case of “year one had 31,000 and year two has about 9,000 so year two is a disaster”, there is more to it than that.
Very poor journalism and I expected more from you to be honest. I think I’ll stop reading this site now.
Harry J Allstars – Fan of Ebbsfleet United of four and a half years and loving every minute.
PS. I’ve been a fan of the club a lot longer than MyFC came along. If you really are a member then you’ll know what my thoughts of the project are. Not entirely happy but willing to give it a go as it’s my club that they’re in bed with. Nothing has changed since day one, just more determined to see my club succeed. Thanks for you concern.
As a fairly active MyFC member, there are a few things I find annoying about the above post. There are aspects that I agree with, so I’ll limit my ranting.
“MyFC has always been big on spin and low on transparency. As such, the exact current membership level is a difficult figure to come by, though the current figure is believed to be a shade over 9,000.”
There are two threads (one from the officials on high, so presumably it’s accurate) on the MyFC forum where membership levels are updated several times a day. Latest figure was 9446.
“For one group of people, however, the ramifications of the last twelve months could be ruinous. This group is the one group of people that have been ridden roughshod over, and who will now most likely be left to pick up the pieces after the part-time supporters, internet entrpreneurs and visionaries have left Stonebridge Road for the last time – the supporters of Ebbsfleet United Football Club. These supporters have been let down by everybody. They have been let down by MyFC, who have been proved to be incompetent in their running of the club.”‘
The above sounds like an ideological rant more than anything else. It should be remembered that without the cash injection from MyFC upon takeover the Club would likely have gone into administration last year. It is also interesting to look at membership levels in the local area: currently I think there are around 600 MyFC members in Kent, about half the average home attendance. So it would seem that the group that has been run roughshod over are fairly engaged in the Society.
I would be interested to hear what you think the Society has done that has proved to be incompetent. I have a few ideas, but I would like to hear yours first.
So many questions to answer, and so little time.
Phil: The point I was trying to make was that £35 isn’t a great deal of money to lose. As such, I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for people that left MyFC because they voting for picking the team. If they choose to break away and try again then that’s up to them, I guess. I think that Will Brooks has done very nicely out of it. If you’d asked me in November 2007, I’d have said that I’d have thought that he would do very nicely out of it all along.
Harry: Your assertions that I am somehow in cahoots with Karl Williams are laughable. I have little more time for him than you do, so I would suggest that you retract them, or your comment will be removed or edited so that these assertions are removed. Are things so bad at Ebbsfleet now that anyone that criticises this little project is written off as being one of his cronies?
Brenton: If the figures that are being reported regarding the amount of money that the club is losing are anything like correct, it has been incompetently managed. As I understand it, the current levels of debt at Ebbsfleet are very low, but they are reporting massive losses at the moment. Presuming this to be correct (and I haven’t seen any official statements from the club saying that it isn’t), they are storing up massive potential problems for the future. For the record, I don’t think that 9,446 is a healthy number of members at all, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before you see me expressing any sympathy for MyFC.
I didn’t suggest that you’re in cahoots with Karl Williamson, I suggested that you have spoken to some very ill informed people of which Karl happens to be one of many.
If you think that then I will retract it as it was never intended.
Still don’t think it’s a very good article.
Harry J Wanklestain – Hmm, where to begin? Starting with Bile, Middle bit, Bile, ending with Bile. An ex Chelsea fan who discovered Ebbsfleet 2 and a half years ago. Famously rants on the MyFC Forum before people voted with their feet in their thousands, “Thanks for the Money, now F*ck off”. No one really wants to be associated with him so please, no-one worry too much that he is typical of either a fan of Ebbsfleet United Football Club or a member of MyFC, fortunately hes been banned from more forums than you can shake a stick at and sadly is reduced to finding articles that he can comment on.
Seems to be obsessed with certain people and promotes his lies, this is what MyFC has had to put up with, unfortunately he is probably responsible for a fair sized proportion of the non-renewal of now ex-members.
Argue all you like. Neither side will ever prove it’s case to the other.
The proof of the pudding is in the numbers.
Renewals are abysmal and the balance sheet will barely sustain the club till the end of the season.
If you really want the best for Ebbsfleet ask the people in charge how it happened rather than simply blame a handful of people who saw it coming and tried desperately to raise awareness rather than just sit back in a comfy MyFC armchair and watcc from the sidelines.
Yes, a few of us have failed in our efforts to avert disaster but compared to those that sat back and let it happen…
There are an array of MyFC dignataries, and they know who they are, who readily put their hand on the tiller and steered a course to the iceberg. Ask them what they intend to do about it. And just hope to God their answer isn’t “nothing” simply wrapped up in a blanket of good intention. Ebbsfleet needs proper substance now. Not another load of well intentioned flim flam from a bunch of unqualified, self serving individuals.
OK these are the figures of Jan 09
Income in pounds 823,334.82
Will Brooks Income 277,065.69
It is also been reported that creater/operator Brooks was an Ebbsfleet fan before this project was floated.
So the whole premise of buying and owning a club was a scam, plain and simple.
It was a way for him to make a really good living and buy into his favourite team, I can see this descending into a lawsuit !
Bottom line is Will Brooks conned everyone and made out like a bandit in this project, I really feel for the real fans and staff of Ebbsfleet who warned against muppets taking over their team, and regardless of how the true believers try to spin it, it’s crashing and burning !
Only Will Brooks and his mates have really gained from this nonsense.
I wont go into all the drivel that Wanklestain writes, but his claim that no one mentioned 15,000 renewals is way off the mark, its all over the media.
How about this from the CEO http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_conf/7901668.stm
“Brenton: If the figures that are being reported regarding the amount of money that the club is losing are anything like correct, it has been incompetently managed. As I understand it, the current levels of debt at Ebbsfleet are very low, but they are reporting massive losses at the moment. Presuming this to be correct (and I haven’t seen any official statements from the club saying that it isn’t), they are storing up massive potential problems for the future. For the record, I don’t think that 9,446 is a healthy number of members at all, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before you see me expressing any sympathy for MyFC.”
Thanks for the reply. The lack of reasoned debate about MyFC is ridiculous. See above.
The monthly losses are high, but they were largely inherited by MyFC. I’m not sure exactly what the monthly deficits are, but I can’t think of any significant increase in our annual budget from Year 0 to Year 1, other than a slight increase in the playing budget (how slight it is is up for debate). The debt levels are low because the bulk of the takeover money went to (and still is) paying off the debts of the former owners.
We had an opportunity to rein in the playing budget but unfortunately it was voted down. The proposal would have frozen the budget at current levels, which are lower than the amount budgeted for. We’ve loaned out a few players that weren’t getting any playing time, and presumably this reduces the playing budget, though at the same time the coach has brought in a few new faces, offsetting the decrease.
This level of football is all quite new to me, but I’m a bit at a loss as to how the Club finances should have been dealt with. If you purchased a club that was loosing £500,000 per year on a budget of £800,000, what do you do? Immediately switch to part-time, even though there’s a decent possibility that there will be a significant inflow of funds half-way through the next season?
PS: Hi Tin.
Hi Prof. Plum,
Care to comment with sticking the knife in? LIke an adult? No?
I never mentioned anyone by name in my original reply to the article and only mentioned Karl when the admin did.
“Nobody wants to be associated with Harry J” We’ll see shall we, we’ll see…..
Oh and summer 2004 was four and a half years ago, not two.
Never mind. Still having fun on our forum? You and about five others.
“It is also been reported that creater/operator Brooks was an Ebbsfleet fan before this project was floated. ”
That’s hilarious, you guys just spend your days making this stuff up don’t you?
Good lord. He’s and alien, he’s Jesus Christ….. Yeah we’ve heard all the conspiracy theories.
Right then, children. If you can’t all keep your debate on this subject at an adult level, I’ll just close the comments. Thanks.
If others are willing to give it a go then I am.
You published your article, I responded. Someone then came on and said that I had been a fan of the club for only two and a half years, I stated that this was not the case. Anyone at the club can back this up. I did used to support Chelsea, this is true but I got bored there and took more of an interest in my local team. In the last 4 years I’ve only missed four games. One of these was a KSC match away at Margate. The rest were week day evening games in other parts of the country. Manchester, Halifax and Forest Green which is near Gloucestershire.
If anyone wants to get into a debate about how much I love the club then I’ll gladly do so, I could use the practice but for me it would be just like kicking a ball up against the wall.
To say that Ebbsfleet fans have been screwed over by MyFC is laughable. Ironically, the society voted existing Fleet fans onto the board in such numbers as to have a controlling majority. We voted, democratically, to give Ebbsfleet Fans de facto control over their own club. Much of what has happened since is a consequence of that.