I pondered for a while before I decided to write this article, largely because I didn’t want to give ‘Own AFC’ the oxygen of publicity.
But as we’ve learned throughout history, there’s always someone trying to repackage an idea as new and radically different, when we all recognise it as the same, tired concept, with a lick of paint that soon flakes away to reveal the truth beneath.
I know not why the people behind it have come up with it, or whether they’re getting the numbers they want. What I do know is, regardless of how much they might plead that it’s not, this is just a rebranded, repackaged, souped up, new tech version of My Football Club, and if it ever takes off, it’s going to meet the same end. I was there – or close by – before it started, when it started, when it began to tank, and when it finally spluttered and died.
Why will it meet the same end? Because trying to make big decisions concerning a football club are by definition difficult. But to make them when you are one of tens, hundreds or thousands, even more so. So trying to make little, day-to-day decisions, like managing staff, not to mention picking the team, is by extension going to be even more so – if not impossible.
And that’s before The FA start asking questions about ‘sporting integrity.’ How are they going to prove that those exerting such influence over the playing side aren’t betting on the game? When I worked for Supporters Direct, I wasn’t allowed to because of my job – and I didn’t really go near the players.
Then there are those pesky fans. How are they going to feel about such a remote model, where someone’s sat on a train to work, making decisions about their left-back ‘for a bit of a laff’? Or even taking it seriously?
There’s this myth that experiences of poor ownership means that what fans want is some kind of idealised, decentralised, hyper-democratised ownership model, when the truth is they don’t because many – most – are content to allow these sorts of decisions about their club to be contracted out, as long as the people are professional and competent. If that’s hundreds or thousands of members, by definition, unless you’re measuring competence as part of the entry criteria (I doubt it), then you’re going to get plenty of incompetence, and mores the point, disengaged members.
None of this of course means that the democratic ownership model prescribed by my alma mata, the now essentially defunct Supporters Direct, is dead. It isn’t, and it works very well. Where it works well – as with any ownership model – is where there is competence, good governance, effective decision making processes, and a degree of transparency.
Half-baked, copycat ideas of harnessing new technology to engineer some kind of benign, ultra-democratic paradise is a nonsense, and it’s a corruption of a perfectly good and effective form of ownership that has been proven to work well. What next? Club AI, where robots pick the team according to an algorithm? Watch this space.
This rehashing of My Football Club is so blatant and awful a prospect, that it needs to be dispensed with quietly and without dignity. It needs to be buried in an unmarked grave, and never spoken of again.