Colchester, M. (2008, January 2). One Team Gets 26,000 Owners. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119922623784960703.html
The story of how 26,000 fans pooled together to purchase a minor league soccer team in England is an example of collective action. Through the MyFootballClub website , fans were able to contribute roughly $70.00 (USD) each to own a part Ebbsfleet United and have a say in how the team is managed.
Teams are typically owned by individuals or small groups. For instance, Liverpool FC, a soccer team in England’s Premier League is owned by New England Sports Ventures, while the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, are owned by Rexall Sports. Ebbsfleet United is owned by MyFootballClub Industrial & Provident Society, and have established a board to work with the members and oversee the day-to-day operations.
Owners of Ebbsfleet United can vote on starting line-ups, approve or deny transfers and receive updates directly from the coach regarding player performance. Member input would be conducted online, where they can also watch games and receive up-to-date statistics regarding the club. According to Jenkins (2006), fandom can be considered a knowledge culture. Using a digital medium and technological tools, Ebbsfleet can benefit from the knowledge of fans to potentially improve the on-field product.
The MyFootballClub site offers information regarding how the ownership works, the benefits of joining and how to be a member. MyFootballClub can interact with individuals interested in joining and keep current members informed using social media tools. The site contains links to a Facebook page and a Twitter account as well as the Chairman’s and web teams blogs. Unfortunately, the blog is not regularly updated, giving readers less motivation to follow new postings. A quick glance at their Twitter timeline shows tweets that send updates, but not many interactive messages in the form of replies or retweets to others.
Ebbsfleet United could potentially tap into the collective intelligence generated by the owners of the team. The concept of collective intelligence was introduced by Pierre Levy who describes it as “a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real-time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills” (Levy, p. 13). It is for the enrichment of individuals rather than for a community. But the fact that fans can interact with one another using blogs and message boards allows them to enhance their knowledge. By then allowing them to vote on line-ups and transactions, MyFootballClub may be attempting to use this knowledge to benefit the team.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press.
Levy, P. (1997). Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Massachusetts: Perseus Books.