adopted from The Dream Antilles
I have a confession to make. I know it’s not vogue to discuss our personal finances here, or brag about our personal wealth, but I have to out myself anyway. I want to confess. I’ve been keeping a secret from you. And I owe you an explanation. You didn’t know it, but I am a proud owner of a professional sports franchise.
No, I didn’t get $100 billion dollars in dot com bubble and buy a part of Manchester United. But I do own a part of an English football (gringos, that means soccer) team, Ebbsfleet United.
As today’s New York Times reported:
[Will] Brooks, a 37-year-old former advertising copywriter, set up a Web site in 2007 called MyFootballClub.co.uk that asked a simple question: how many people would be interested in pooling their money to buy a soccer club, so that ordinary fans could vote on every decision, from uniform design to player selection? More than $400,000 was raised on the first day of public registration.
The Web fantasy became reality when members voted in February to take over Ebbsfleet United, a tiny, unsuccessful club in southeast England, for slightly less than $1 million.
MyFootballClub has about 31,000 members/owners from all over the world (including the author of this article [and the author of this essay]), all of whom pay an annual subscription of about $60 to be a member of the nonprofit trust that owns “the Fleet.”
The club is run on the principle of one person, one vote for every decision, major or minor. Ebbsfleet recently made headlines in the British press when members voted to sell John Akinde, a talented young striker, for about $250,000, the first vote of its kind.
Why would somebody do this, you might ask? Why would somebody spend the princely sum of $60 +/- per year to own a share of a professional sports team, especially an English football team that is
four five divisions below the Premier League? And why would somebody proudly wear an owner/manager t-shirt for Ebbsfleet? And why would I care about, let alone agonize about a team that has lost its last 4 games?
This is the kind of thing that, if you don’t get it instantly, it’s very hard to explain. It might even be impossible to explain if it doesn’t light you up on hearing it.
I love the game. I love the game in its disorganized, pick up form, and in its most star filled, regimented, corporate package. I love the game when the ball is made of rags and duct tape. I love the game when it’s played before 50,000 screaming fans. And I love the game at all the spots in between. I’d rather watch re-runs of Boca Juniors playing River Plate (El Club mas poderoso de Argentina) in the rain in a scoreless tie than most professional US football (pigskin) games. I’d rather get all muddy, sweaty, and tired playing this game than most other activities.
So the chance to play a new role in the game, as if I were a small scale Sir Alex or George Steinbrenner or Roman Abramovich, is just delicious. It’s fantastically exciting! Let’s face it, I can make some room in the upper arcana of teams I like to follow for Ebbsfleet United, of which I am a proud owner.
And to top it off, I’m delighted to bring this kind of inexpensive, democratic ownership to sport. To show its promise. After all is said and done, Ebbsfleet United is a great experiment and I want to see it succeed. It’s something great that the Internet has made possible. Its success will inspire other groups of people to own other clubs. We will slowly take ownership of professional sports back from the undeserving, spoiled, greedy billionaires, spread it around, and make it a widespread, public, affordable phenomenon.
Can you imagine what it would be like if people across the world, hundreds of thousands of them, owned the Boston Red Sox or the New York Mets? Can you imagine how much more intense the games would become? Can you imagine how it would be if the ownership instead of being imperious were democratic? If betting increases interest in the games, can you imagine what ownership of the team does?
Further, can you imagine what it must be like for the Ebbsfleet players, playing 5 leagues down from the Premier League? They go from complete and utter anonymity to having 31,000 people across the globe watching them, following the games, criticizing their form, making suggestions. The stadium for Ebbsfleet, Stone Bridge Road in Gravesend, Kent, only holds a total of about 5,000 fans (the Rose Bowl, on the other hand, holds about 92,000 people). Can you imagine both the pressure and the joy as a player of having 31,000 owners watch you play?
This is popular, democractic (with a small “d”) professional sports. It’s new. It’s brilliant. It’s an experiment with tremendous possibilities. I’m completely revved up about it. Just ponder the possibilities. Just imagine how this applies to other endeavors.
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