Ebbsfleet United are the world’s first and only web-community owned football club. With over 30,000 members, Ebbsfleet, formerly Gravesend and Northfleet, is owned by it’s fans, who have each paid £35 for the privilege of being able to decide if the manager stays or goes, or if they should sign a tough no-nonsense centre back or a free scoring striker.
The community is thriving. There are over 25,000 posts in the club’s forums each month as well as a bustling chatroom where all the big topics are debated. This is the perfect example of a community saying what they want and doing just that.
This is, it could be argued, the first example of social media having an impact on people who are involved, without them knowing it. To many of the fans, it could be safe to assume that they are involved because of the chance to own part of a football club – something that doesn’t happen very often – and to have thier say in the running of the team.
What they are in fact doing, is taking part in a huge experiment to see if a group of people who have never met can work together with the Internet as the primary conduit. So far, it would appear, it’s working. Ebbsfleet are mid table in this season’s Blue Square Premiership, which is four promotions away from English football’s top flight, and they won the FA Trophy last year.
Following on from Danny Brown’s post about a social media soccer team, it got me thinking how possible it would be to actually put one together in the Ebbsfleet model.
The first challenge would be working out how to garner revenue on a regular basis, before even thinking about making money through the club itself. There could be a one off fee each season, as with Ebbsfleet, but are there enough Twitter users who would be prepared to get involved and put their hard earned cash into such a (possibly doomed) project?
Another issue would be deciding where the team should be based, let’s call them Twitter UK FC for now. London would make sense due to population density and potential supporter base, but, this would alienate users in the farthest reaches of the UK. So perhaps Birmingham, in the middle of the country would make sense.
Then, finding a stadium would be tough. We’d need to find a suitable space or disused ground that a council would be persuaded to let us use – and then of course we’d need to lease it. The easy part would be finding players and getting the club into a Football Association league!
The Ebbsfleet story is compelling, and it has only just begun and I will be watching with great interest to see if this community run club can make it’s way to the football league and one day face Manchester United in a league game.