31 March, 2008

My (half-assed) Football Club

Late last year myfootballclub.co.uk set out to revolutionise the relationship between fans and executives by offering the common man on the interwebz a chance to own part of their own club. Ebbsfleet United were essentially floated on the stock-market, with any old Abromovich wannabe able to buy a stake for only 35 beans a year. The most attractive part of the deal however was the level on control advertised to the owners, with democratic procedure supposedly in place to give you a say in tactics, team selection, pie fillings, and cheerleader age. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is basically a real-life version of Champ Man (or Football Manager as it’s now called) the classic PC game ideal for whiling away those weekends way back before beer and skirt were alternatives, or even today to put off revision and dissertation writing.

However, it all sounded almost too good to be true, with many industry folk (including our pals over at Soccerlens and 200 percent) suggesting that MyFC would struggle in practice once the novelty value wore off. The opportunity always sounded like those token birthday or Christmas presents you get for people you don’t know that well, such as ‘an acre of the Amazon rainforest’ or ‘your own star in our galaxy,’ and MyFC executives have already had to intercede with the owners’ requests. A memo from Liam Daish (coupled with another article from the MyFC board in general) politely tells informs all owners that they cannot actually pick the team or decide tactics just yet. This comes after only a month trial of the famous ‘team selector,’ something that has unfortunately received a very low response from the members, on average just 1 - 1.5%.

Furthermore Mr Daish rightly observes that, of that tiny percentage, probably as small a fraction again are even watching the games or know who the players are. Call me cynical, but was that not kind of immediately obvious? I don’t even know where Ebbsfleet is, or what league they’re in, let alone who their best pick at left-back is? At the end of the day, it has understandably escaped most people’s attention that the whim of us so-called owners is actually playing with real players’ lives and careers. I’d feel sorry for an Ebbsfleet striker being forced to play in goal just because a high enough percentage of online voters thought it might be ‘a laugh.’ For this reason ultimately Mr Daish went on to say, “the Web Team feel uncomfortable forcing team selection on to the club when it’s not clear whether the appetite is there.” That’s the end of that then.

Bottom line is that as an innovative and entrepreneurial exercise, this was great for the club and the profile of lower-league football, however it was always fundamentally pretty impractical. For involving football management though you’re better off sticking to computer simulations, but if you do wanna make it that bit more real, STT suggests you try dropping acid before you play.