Minor League Ebbsfleet United have a big day on their calendar on February 19th, with ownership of the club in the balance. The difference from all the other run of the mill sports stories is that the team are the world's first and only web-community owned football club - 30,000 members in 122 countries.
25,000 memberships costing £35 (just under $50 US) are up for renewal on the 19th, which allow you as an owner to pick the side, the clothing they wear and generally behave like a mini oligarch as you follow your team's fortunes.
From the team's website http://www.myfootballclub.co.uk/
Situated in Kent, England, Ebbsfleet United play in the Blue Square Premier, which is four divisions below the Premiership.
In February 2008, the members purchased the football club for £600,000. Just three months later, Ebbsfleet United won the FA Trophy at Wembley – the club’s greatest achievement in a history that dates back to 1890.
This season, members are aiming for another first by guiding Ebbsfleet United into the Football League for the first time in its history. You can join the members today and be part of what will be a thrilling 08/09 campaign.
This exciting collaboration experiment is discussed in Don Tapscott's book 'Wikinomics' and is a theme of the English film 'Us Now' (I'll be interviewing the director of that film Ivo Gormley in London next week). That's Liam Daish, Ebbsfleet Football Club Manager discussing the team in the clip from "Us Now" above.
The big question is whether a team funded in happier times economically will get continued support from its shareholders. In a week in which the new recovery.org website is launched in open source content management system Drupal - Dries Buytaert, Drupals' creator is understandably thrilled - the bigger question is whether the cash is there for investment in collaboration projects.
A sports team makes a good analogy for the economic ups and downs of business management. In good times companies can bring in management consultants to provide pathfinding thinking for their strategic planning (and blame the messenger if things go badly).
In the current economic contagion there appears to be a routine 20% off budgets & staffing management mentality coupled with a batten down the hatches approach to strategy. As Dennis Howlett wrote earlier today, some of the big consulting companies are groaning under the weight of their debt, with Bearing Point slipping under water and filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In English football terms Bearing Point just got relegated and will struggle to remain in the upper echelons in future. Other big consulting companies are moving into social media, hoping to make money from change management, now that the ERP juggernaut has slowed to a crawl.
The challenge we all face today is the flight of capital - the US administration's new recovery.gov site wa created in Drupal partly because it's free and that sends a clear statement to US taxpayers. It would be politically embarrassing if it was launched in an expensive content management system and could become a target for the Obama team's political enemies.
The big question for Ebbsfleet United is whether their owners will stump up for another year of ownership (votes are currently being held on whether to stream 08/09 home league games live for overseas viewers, and members are about to choose their club's kit manufacturer for next season) or whether they will revert to being passive supporters.
For those farsighted executives who are strategizing to profit from the downturn and position themselves well for the recovery, collaboration initiatives are a highly cost effective way to engage all parts of their empire, from employees to partners to customers.
like Ebbfleet United, communicating that engagement proposition is a tough communication exercise, and not to be underestimated.
Ebbsfleet coach Liam Daish, speaking to the BBC: "I'm confident most of those involved are in it for the long term and not just some passing fad,....What the owners have here, you won't get anywhere else in football."
If you'd like to own Ebbsfleet United join up and get involved here.