Website still hoping to control a new club
15 August ~ This summer Slough Town, of the South League Division One, announced a sponsorship deal with MyFootballClub (MyFC), the online organisation that rose to fame in 2008 when they took control of Ebbsfleet United. Despite a positive start, by April 2013 the backlash from Ebbsfleet fans concerned at how their club was being run forced MyFC to hand the majority of their shares to a supporters' trust, admitting it was "not capable of running any football club remotely in an online environment". Slough fans, then, must be a little worried.
MyFC's time at the helm of Ebbsfleet was far from plain sailing. The premise was intriguing enough: charge £35 for a one-year membership that entitled subscribers to a vote in decisions about how a club was run, but did not reward them with a dividend or any kind of profit. Around 27,000 signed up to finance the purchase of a controlling stake in Ebbsfleet but interest quickly fell, with membership dropping to around 9,000 by the start of the 2009 season. By September 2010, that figure had dropped as low as 3,500 and the club was facing up to relegation from the Conference National.
Now in the hands of Kuwaiti company KEH Sports Ltd, Ebbsfleet United are looking to rebuild following a tumultuous period and the new owners have promised steady investment. Slough have been keen to point out that their own arrangement with MyFC is simply a sponsorship deal to the tune of £10,000 and that no move for the club is expected. Instead Slough will carry MyFC's logo on their home and away shirts for the 2013-14 season and the 1,000 or so remaining members of the website will be given access to information about the club, including news and match report. Footage of home games has also been put forward as a possibility to entice new followers.
But MyFC continue to entertain the possibility of moving for another club. A statement on their website says "the concept has been tested but it hasn't evaporated". Clearly a takeover move is not viable with MyFC's current shortfall of members but if they are successful in building relationships with fans through their agreement with Slough and, perhaps most crucially, if the team are successful on the pitch, then an uptake of new members is possible.
However another PR disaster could be the end for MyFC. While a similar venture – Five Pound FC – has forged links with Monmouth Town of the Welsh League Division One, MyFC need their arrangement with Slough to be a success if they are to have a realistic chance of relaunching their concept. Joe Sharratt