I am now the proud owner of a professional soccer club.
Well, almost. It should be all wrapped up, complete with pretty bow, just in time to put under the Christmas tree.
Having the ability to pick English outfit Ebbsfleet United's team each week from the comfort of my New Albany abode is a pretty exciting prospect. And I'll also have a say in other key decisions, like signing players and whether to add a McDonald's concession stand to our stadium. That kind of stuff.
My new team (www.ebbsfleetunited.co.uk) plays in the Blue Square Premier, which is just outside the league set-up. You've got the Premiership, the Championship, League One and League Two — and then us.
However, we are very much in with a shout of getting into League Two next season, lying 10th right now and within six points of a playoff position.
Who knows? We could even play in the Champions’ League one day.
Did I mention that there's over 53,000 of us?
We are spread out all over the world. While most are from Britain and Ireland, there's 1,400 of us in the States, and a gang of others from as far afield as Australia, Japan, China, Vietnam, Tonga, Qatar, Malawi and Panama.
We are members of MyFootballClub, a groundbreaking Internet-based project with the stated aim of buying a soccer club and transforming its fortunes. Launched in April of this year by former journalist Will Brooks, our philosophy is that members who pay $71.35 get to vote on every key decision — from picking the side, to signing players, to ground improvements.
The media hailed it this week as the 21st century model of club control. I like to call it, “Fantasy football for real.”
To start off with, we voted on which club we’d like to buy. Most leading choices - Leeds, Nottingham Forest, Cambridge United, Accrington Stanley, Manchester United and Arsenal - were discounted. They were either not for sale, too expensive, had too much debt, or just didn't have the potential.
When word got out, clubs actually began approaching us. Nine were considered, from League One down, all wanting to be taken over. Last week, we chose Ebbsfleet United, formerly known as Gravesend & Northfleet.
Our lawyers and accountants are currently in the process of carrying out what’s known as due diligence, a process not too dissimilar to what goes on after you’ve agreed a price on a property. Buying a club is a tad more complicated, however, so there are a lot of things to check. We need to make sure there are no hidden debts and no big roads planned through the center of the field.
Once sorted, the Kent-based club will become the focus of the most extraordinary — and controversial — ownership experiment in the game's history.
We already have a kitty of around $1.5 million. It is thought that somewhere around $500,000 will be used initially to secure the controlling interest (through debt clearance) and pay legal fees, with more due later.
Liam Daish, currently the manager but soon to become our "head coach," will implement our decisions, derived from weekly polls on the Web site. He will have around $500,000 to spend in the January transfer window on fees or wage commitments, which is huge for a division where transfer fees are rare and a player's pay is typically $600 to $700 a week.
I like Liam. Being old school, he's probably not what you would consider ideal material for such an innovative and forward thinking project, but he said he likes our idea. And not only was he born in Hampshire, like me, but he played for the Republic of Ireland, like I would have if I had made it that far.
And the great Barry Fry, who managed Daish throughout his spell at Birmingham City as a player, once said that if a squadron of F-111s attacked the team's penalty area, Liam would attempt to head them away.
That's my type of coach.
I can keep an eye on his and the team's progress via an online streaming service of games on our Web site, so I don't have to worry about hopping on the plane to make the long trans-Atlantic journey to Stonebridge Road every Saturday.
And if we do well, I'll be happy in the knowledge that I helped changed Ebbsfleet United’s fortunes around, but it won't make me rich. Any money made gets put back into the team.
If this works, it has the potential to change the face of soccer ownership all over the world, with fans deciding how to run clubs. It may even spread to other sports. Imagine having a say in the lineup for the Louisville Bats, or even whether Peyton Manning should be dropped as quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts.
The idea is spreading.
You can still become a member of MyFootballClub (www.myfootballclub.co.uk). But if you want to own a club a little bit closer to home, there is also an American version of the MyFC ownership plan, called MySoccerClubUSA (www.mysoccerclubusa.com), in which fans who join the Web site will start a soccer team from scratch to play in either the United Soccer Leagues or the National Premier Soccer League. The cost of membership is $50.
So what are you waiting for?
Take over the world. Oh, and wish us luck.
Our next game's at home against Stafford Rangers on Saturday. We’re expecting a big crowd.
Up the Fleet!
THUNDER IN STORMING FORM
Spare a thought for Southern Indiana United's U9 Thunder team, which stormed through the Veterans' Invitational Tournament in Evansville over the weekend, only to be edged out by a strange goal differential rule.
The boys won all four of their games in a nine-team group, scoring a whopping 36 goals and conceding only three, which is a goal difference of 33.
Evansville Elite's White team also won its four games, scoring 21 goals and conceding two, which is a difference of 19.
So a convincing tournament victory for SIU, to add to its KSSL West Division and Bluegrass Cup triumphs?
Well, not exactly.
A tournament rule states that each team can only gain a maximum goal differential of plus-four for each game. So despite SIU's 7-1 win against Evansville Elite Blue; a 19-1 thrashing of South West Indiana Soccer Academy (SWISA); a 2-1 victory over Oldham County’s Thoroughbreds Blue and an 8-0 thumping of the Thoroughbreds Green team, they still came home empty handed.
Because of the rule, SIU was adjudged to have a goal differential of 13, with Evansville ending up at 15.
SIU’s other participants, the U11 terriers, lost their first game 4-2 to Jasper Firestrikers, tied with Evansville Elite, and lost to eventual winners Southern Illinois Force in their third game.
Meanwhile, the U16 Classic competition went to Mockingbird, which features Providence's Zev Crawley, Floyd Central's Max Orwick and Jeffersonville's Spencer Whiteman.
Saturday saw the boys win their opener 1-0 against SWISA Magic, with an Orwick strike, before tying with Cincinnati's Star Magic 0-0. That was enough to see them through to Sunday’s semifinal against Thoroughbreds, which they won 2-1 with help of a goal and an assist from Crawley.
The final saw them pitted against Sycamore Arsenal of Ohio, with Crawley heading the winner in another 2-1 victory.
NOT SO “SWEET 16” FOR TRANSY
The NCAA Division III dream of Transylvania and New Albany's Matt Karaffa ended on Saturday after a 1-0 defeat to Washington University of St. Louis in the last 16.
John Hengel scored the game-winning goal for the Bears at 54:21 when he took a pass from senior Marshall Plow and fired a shot to the far corner for the lone goal of the game.
Transylvania, which ends its season with a 15-3-3 overall record, had beaten Ohio Wesleyan and John Carroll University — both by penalty kicks — in the tournament’s first and second rounds last week. It was the Lexington school’s best performance in the tournament to date.
Washington themselves lost to No. 1-ranked Trinity University, Texas, on Sunday, which now progress to the final four at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Florida this weekend. The other finalists are Middlebury (Vermont), Loras (Iowa) and Messiah (Pennsylvania).
Meanwhile, the draw for the NCAA Division I tournament was made Monday night and Bradley University (14-5-3) will open against DePaul (12-7-0) on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The winner will advance to face Indiana University in the second round on Nov. 28.
Amongst the Braves' ranks is Floyd Central graduate Brad Snook, and they guaranteed themselves an NCAA berth after winning their first Missouri Valley Conference tournament on Sunday when beating No. 7-ranked Creighton 1-0.
The goal was scored by Stephen Brust with just 86 seconds left on the clock. The NCAA tournament will kick off this weekend.
Louisville has also made the 48-team field for the first time in its history and will host Duke (11-7-1) on Friday at 7. The winner of that match will take on Ohio State at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28.
Got a soccer story? If so, send your information to Aidan Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am now the proud owner of a professional soccer club.
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