In August, 20 candidates campaigned for seats on the MyFootballClub Society Board and the “lucky” 7 will direct the strategy over the next year, a critical role as the Society is the main financial support for Ebbsfleet United.
Despite being elected to represent the members of the Society, some of the previous Board members sermonised about their view of responsible ownership, actively opposing the open, community decision-making way of thinking that MyFootballClub was based on. In particular, this was seen in some of the more contentious issues during the year, such as the Club budget, membership fees and player sales.
The forum discussions about these decisions went on and on for dozens of pages, with very few new facts or analysis produced along the way. The more vocal contributors quickly dug in their heels and the casual members had no way of tracking the debate or main points. We still need something more than the forums in this regard, at the very least to get the main points summarised regularly.
I think one of the biggest factors in the state of anomie that sometimes seems to pervade the MyFC community is the lack of faith from the Board in the ability of the membership to make the right choices. Alice Casey describes this perfectly:
…decision makers don’t give enough credit to public wisdom and intelligence, the press consistently portray the public as being respondent, passive and powerless rather than active and influential, and people themselves do not feel able to influence decisions in their communities. These three have worked together to ensure that many citizens remain as passive consumers.
Of course for many members, MyFC is a luxury item, so the constant peril at Ebbsfleet is that if members are not engaged with the Club or if the cost is too high (bascially value for money), they can walk away. I don’t use the term “peril” lightly: as widely predicted, 20,000 members did not renew in February 2008. In the run up to that deadline the Board spent far too much time wringing their hands over this, rather than deal with the issues that were causing.
My view remains that the two most important roles for the Board are to build the community within the Society itself, and to implement mechanisms to inform and involve members in the activity of the Club.
Building a succesful internet community
I’m thinking along the lines of Slice the Pie or Zopa. I refer to these two specifically as they were also featured in Ivo Gormley’s film, “Us, Now” alongside MyFootballClub. Like MyFC, these organisations are set up in response to the failure of “real” institutions (like record companies and banks) for certain segments of those market.
They have a product which is easy for individual members to join, participate in, and contribute towards the development of the community. Because of this openness, they are sustainable and successful. It’s not the ownership that is the attractive thing about MyFC, it’s the participation.
Enabling members to collectively contribute
This means more than “give us your money, now f**k off”, which is sometimes how it can feel as MyFootballClub member. It means being open about the decisions that are being made, and that requires a philosophical change of attitude from the Club as well as the Board.
But the most urgent task for the new Board must be to sort out the communication between the Club and the Members, and maximise members involvement with decisions.
The election result:
The above was draft before the election but I didn’t post due to work things & holiday.
I’m a little bit disappointed that a couple of candidates with more technical and financial nous narrowly missed out, but the bad eggs either stood down or didn’t make it through nomination. They’re a reasonable crew, don’t agree with all of them all of the time, but that’s democracy for you.
In general they are starting well, and the new Chairman is also keen to improve communications. There have been a few big issues that have cropped up over the last couple of months that have served to rally people to the cause and bring cohesion to the organisation. But I’ll talk about them later.