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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 09:36 GMT
Website agrees Ebbsfleet takeover



By Alex Perry and John Sinnott

Ebbsfleet United
Ebbsfleet United are six points off the play-offs
Fans' community website MyFootballClub has agreed a deal to take over Blue Square Premier outfit Ebbsfleet United.

The 20,000 MyFootballClub members have each paid 35 to provide a 700,000 takeover pot and they will all own an equal share in the club.

In a landmark for English football, members will vote on player selection, transfers and all major decisions.

"We are united in believing this is a great opportunity," Ebbsfleet chairman Jason Botley told BBC Sport.

"This extra finance and support will enable our club to progress."

The deal is expected to be completed in a few weeks after a due diligence process and the website will purchase a 51% controlling stake, while also having the option to buy the club outright in the future.

The takeover is unprecedented in English football, given the website's stated intention of involving the members so radically in the running of the club, particularly with team selection.

Picking 11 players and formations isn't a precise science

Ebbsfleet boss Liam Daish

After the takeover goes through the current board will stay in place, as will manager Liam Daish, although his title will change to head coach.

Daish insisted that he was happy for fans to have an input on team matters.

"Picking 11 players and formations isn't a precise science and luck often plays its part," stated the Ebbsfleet boss.

"During and after matches, Ebbsfleet supporters often give me their opinion on which players should or shouldn't start games. Now they can have their say.

"My job won't change that much. As a club, we'll select the starting 11 players and formation together.

"But just as before, what goes on at the training ground and in the dressing room on the day of the match is down to me.

"It's the supporters' money that finances this club and pays my wages and those of the players.

"So there's a good argument for them having a say in what players they want to see."

Ebbsfleet were formerly Gravesend and Northfleet but the club's name was changed in May in a bid to tap into the regeneration of the area.

They are currently ninth in the Blue Square Premier, six points off a play-off place for entry to the Football League.

Ebbsfleet United boss Liam Daish
Daish played for Portsmouth, Birmingham and Coventry and has five caps for the Republic of Ireland

And Ebbsfleet's push for a spot in League Two will receive a boost as some of the funds raised by MyFootballClub members will be available in the January transfer window.

MyFootballClub members will be given the option to vote on who the club should buy.

Daish added that he was fully behind the radical model for the club.

"We all agree we need something extra to take us to the next step," he said.

"As a football fan, I think the MyFootballClub idea is fantastic.

"As the coach, I look forward to the challenge of working with thousands of members to produce a winning team.

"My assistant Alan Kimble and myself are 100% committed to making this work."

Since the website's launch in April, 50,000 members have signed up, with 20,000 of those paying the registration fee.

The membership subscription is paid annually so new members can join and become owners at any time, adding to the club's finances.

MyFootballClub was approached by nine clubs and looked into seven of those before opting to take over Ebbsfleet.

The Financial Services Authority has approved the setting up of the MyFootballClub Trust to safeguard members' interests in the eventuality of the club running into financial difficulties.

606: DEBATE

"The MyFootballClub ownership model is an innovative way of funding a lower league club," said Dan Jones, partner at Deloitte and editor of the Annual Review of Football Finance.

"Reports of having raised over 700,000 in 11 weeks suggests it is viable too.

"Deloitte has been following its progress with interest and we're now looking forward to offering our experience in football finance to assist with advice and guidance during the due diligence process."

MyFootballClub creator Will Brooks added: "We hope that MyFootballClub members and Ebbsfleet supporters will join forces and make the football club more sustainable and successful."

Jessica McQueen, Ebbsfleet United Supporters' Trust chair commented: "Being a Trust, our members understand the MyFootballClub concept immediately.

"We very much look forward to working with the MyFootballClub members for the benefit of Ebbsfleet United."

But Supporters Direct, an organisation which has assisted in setting up over 150 supporters' trusts in England and Scotland was less enthusiastic.

A Supporters Direct spokesman said: "The question needs to be asked what happens to the club finances and its supporters if the novelty starts to wear off?"

SEE ALSO
Sullivan wary of website takeover
13 Nov 07 |  Birmingham City
Fans' website could save Halifax
03 Sep 07 |  Halifax Town
Long upset as Fleet bow out again
28 Oct 07 |  Ebbsfleet United
Travel problems affect Ebbsfleet
30 Sep 07 |  Ebbsfleet United
Fans close in on club takeover
02 Aug 07 |  Football
Takeover website brings in Fiddy
30 May 07 |  Football
Gravesend announce change of name
02 May 07 |  Ebbsfleet United
Fans given club takeover chance
01 May 07 |  Football


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