The following is my article that was published on the My Football Club website (MYFC). As background information, I was approached by a board member recently to do some articles on Ebbsfleet United, who have just won promotion back to the Blue Square Conference League (yay!).
I have reproduced it as unless you are a member of MYFC, you will not be able to read it. If you want any further information about becoming a member then please email me through via this blog or via Twitter @main_man.
The future is bright (I gotta wear shades – honest!)
Phew, what a great season that was for Ebbsfleet United!
Rewind back to last July and it did not look like the Fleet would have a team to run out onto Stonebridge Road for the first game. However, that expert magician Liam Daish put together a team of virtual strangers and made them into a powerhouse in the Blue Square South Division. Not only did they made the play offs, they beat Farnborough away in the final to reclaim their spot in the Blue Square Conference. Mission Accomplished.
Or is it?
Now we are back where we belong, do we just give everyone a pat on the back and say “well done” as we head to the pub for a celebratory ale? Or do we roll up our sleeves, put on our thinking caps and set about ensuring that not only will Ebbsfleet United remain in the Blue Square Conference, but they will actually flourish? I know what my answer would be and it doesn’t involve alcohol (well not yet).
Before we look at ‘whats next?’ let’s have a look at the composition of the ‘Conference’ for next season.
In essence it could be said that the Conference mirrors the Premier League in that there are the Haves and Have-nots. Just think Manchester City and Stoke City, for example. So it is the same in the Conference with ‘big name’ clubs (eg: Wrexham, York, Lincoln, Stockport) and the ‘lesser lights’ (eg: Hayes and Yeading, Braintree Town, Forest Green). You could easily add Ebbsfleet United to the ‘lesser lights’ category.
Player budgets are an issue. Naturally for the bigger Conference clubs pulling in crowds in excess of 2,500 is relatively easy. What this means is that with cash flowing in they can afford to acquire better quality players and pay them more than other clubs could. Hence the results on the pitch should be better than average. A number of Conference teams are also full time professionals.
This really helps the coach to ensure that the players are in tip top condition and do not have any work distractions. This is always a delicate issue for a number of teams. Do you go full time and look for success? Or do you keep your income and expenditure under control to ensure the club survives? We all remember what happened to Chester City (and the knock on effect that it had for the Fleet).
This is just a brief summary of what we, MYFC and Ebbsfleet United, are up against. If you think too deeply about it then it appears daunting. If you say the ‘glass is half full’ then it’s exciting and it offers all of us opportunities.
The MYFC concept has been going for just 4 years and there has certainly been a lot of ups (and a few downs).
In this short time frame Ebbsfleet United have won the FA Trophy, Won a play-off final, reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy, and had a good FA Cup run. Throughout this time MYFC has offered the club great support - raising funds for player’s wages, funds for new players, re-painting the ground and other back room activities.
Despite the good times outweighing the bad times, the membership has fallen from over 20,000 to a core of approximately 1,400. This needs to be addressed if we are to continue to have a successful MYFC adventure and a fantastic football club.
So what are the issues that we must address now? The following lists the obvious ones:
1. Players budget – we must ensure that Liam Daish has the necessary funds to keep the players that he needs, and to attract those that will enhance the quality of the team. We must be open and flexible to what Liam says. After all, he is the ‘gaffer’ and has ‘been there, done that’. A lot of thought must go into this issue.
2. Liam Daish must remain as coach. Given Liam’s record it would be safe to assume a number of bigger clubs in the Conference, or League 2, would be keeping an eye on how the Fleet progress. Liam is ambitious and there is always the risk he could be whisked away to another club. We should be wary of this and ensure that MYFC, Ebbsfleet United and Liam Daish have an open and active relationship. We need to listen to Liam, and vice versa.
3. Membership numbers are extremely below average. We can, and must do, better. It was obvious that after the initial MYFC novelty wore off that a large number of members would leave. However, the numbers that have fallen away in 4 years is clearly unacceptable. We can all now, today, make a resolution to help spread the positive message of MYFC and help others to join.
4. Recruitment drive must be ramped up. Although there are, and always has been, a number of revenue initiatives such as adopting a player, virtual ticket selling, MYFC mall etc we need to do much more. Here’s a thought to consider. If every one of the members (approximately 1,400) recruited 2 new members then our membership would rise to over 4,000 and would generate more than £140,000 for the club. Maybe we could set up a ‘refer a friend’ scenario. I think Liam could do a lot with even a portion of that money!
5. MYFC is not just an English thing, it’s an international thing! We have members from all parts of the world. The international members, yes I am one, are just as passionate about MYFC and Ebbsfleet United as a member from Gravesend or Chatham! I would love to see new members from Cairo, Belo Horizonte, Wagga Wagga, Ulan Bator and even Bognor Regis! I know there are plans afoot for some international members to ‘spread the word’. Maybe we could have a friendly competition between regions over recruitment drives.
6. We must ensure that MYFC, the website and the football club remains an attractive proposition to members. We need to be able to answer the question “what’s in it for me?” If we can answer this we will be successful.
As you can see, there is a lot to do. However, we are in a great position given recent events. We must sell the MYFC experience to the world. As the title of my article states – the future is bright (I gotta wear shades)!