MyFootballClub experiment over
17 May ~ Ebbsfleet may be most famous for its international railway station but the town's football team will soon be welcoming visitors from much further afield. The majority shareholders of Ebbsfleet United yesterday agreed to sell the club to KEH Sports Limited, a Kuwait-based company. The club made history in 2008 when they were taken over by the website MyFootballClub, but the online community of football enthusiasts has now relinquished their ownership.
When the site was set up in 2007, it was seen as an experiment in fan power and democracy. The idea of members controlling a football club through a democratic voting process, and having their say on matters both on the pitch and off it, had some appeal to fans who despair at the commodification of the game in the higher leagues.
Initially, the project was a success. The cash injection stabilised a club on the brink of administration and shortly after the takeover the Fleet won the FA Trophy at Wembley. However, enthusiasm for the scheme soon began to dwindle. The number of paid up MyFC members has gradually fallen and the promised interaction between them and the club has not materialised. From an early peak of 32,000, membership had dropped to 3,500 by September 2010.
In the last couple of seasons the people in charge have struggled to raise the funds needed to keep Ebbsfleet afloat. The club, who were recently relegated from the Conference National, have faced a number of winding-up orders and owe over £25,000 to HM Revenue & Customs. Last month they were the subject of a takeover bid from Carlos Kabir Karani but, after MyFC agreed to sell their shares to supporters' group the Fleet Trust, negotiations stalled allowing KEH Sports Ltd (KSL) to step in. MyFC overwhelmingly agreed on Monday to sell their shares, with over 96 per cent of the votes being in favour of the takeover.
The campaign has been led by Peter Varney, the former chief executive of Charlton Athletic who now fronts KSL, a subsidiary of Kuwaiti European Holding Company. The man with the money behind the deal, though, is Dr Abdulla Al Humaidi. His takeover includes a £100,000 transfer budget, a weekly wage budget of £8,000 and stadium development plans. KSL will also settle all of the club's outstanding debts and pay £13,900 to MyFootballClub.
Having experienced for themselves the difficulties of running a football club, Ebbsfleet supporters will be hoping that KSL will at least bring financial stability. Dr Al Humaidi told Kent News that he "loves football" and does not intend to make any profit from the venture. Fans are unlikely to take that claim too seriously, however. Joseph Rutter