Ahh, is that the sweet smell of democracy in the air? While The Dons and The Fleet are both owned by supporters, the difference being Ebbsfleet find themselves under the control of fans that probably hadn’t heard of them before the MyFC takeover early in 2008. To the point that several thousand of them have taken their metaphorical ball (and their actual £35 a year) and found something better to do with their time, perhaps back to fantasy football and score prediction leagues. Of course it’s easy to be holier-than-thou when you’re a Wimbledon supporter… so I will continue.
MyFC is democracy gone bonkers. While us Dons are only prepared to vote on general policy and the big issues and preparing to leave the day to day running to a board voted in by us, MyFC are only a step away from being allowed to vote on the colour of Liam Daishs pants. Daish has just received confirmation he will be staying on after 93% of voting members decided he should stay, but he had little input on whether Michael Gash stayed or went – the vote on his £30,000 move saw 90% of the owners vote for him to stay. Daish seems popular – which may be why the owners seem reluctant to vote to pick the team themselves – but whether this will remain the case depends whether he can guide the team to safety with a reduced budget next season.
As a commercial enterprise, MyFC need to attract customers to ensure they can continue to fund their football club, therefore it should be no surprise they are willing to introduce any gimmick they can to spice up their product. What Ebbsfleet haven’t seen is an increase in numbers through the gate of a Saturday afternoon (or Thursday night…), surely the bread and butter of a football clubs finance no matter how much external investment is raised.
Plus the question must be asked how long MyFC will limp on for. Perhaps they will weather the storm of losing so many members and learn to run the club with a core of 5-6000? But what if a couple of years down the line the project becomes unviable? Then the worry for those that in the long run Ebbsfleet truly rely on – their supporters – will be who can take over and steady the ship. So enough about MyFC… here’s the Conference File for Ebbsfleet United FC.
In 1890 Northfleet United were formed, moving to their long-term home ground Stonebridge Road in 1905. The club spent most of their time in the Kent League, save for a short spell in the Southern League between 1927 and 1930. During the thirties the club acted as a feeder team for Spurs, nine players passing through Stonebridge Road went on to become internationals. The arrangement ended with the onset of war in 1939. (The whole period of feeder clubs was quite an interesting one, particularly for non-league football in Kent during the thirties, a subject I may explore further one day on the other blog…).
Meanwhile Gravesend United had formed in 1893, spending most of their day in the Kent League, except for a couple of short spells in the Southern League. Following the war, the modern club of Gravesend and Northfleet United were formed when the two clubs merged, playing their home games at Stonebridge Road. The new side joined the Southern League, but it took them until 1958 to win their first title despite being full-time for a period.
Relegation in the sixties meant it wasn’t until 1974 G&N returned to the Southern League, but decent performances saw them elected as founder members of the Alliance. This proved to be short-lived, and relegations during the early ’80s meant the club found themselves back in the Southern League Southern Division in 1986. The club yo-yoed a couple of times, before in 1997 they moved to the Isthmian League, securing the title in 2001 at the expense of Canvey Island.
This time the Fleet managed to avoid relegation in the early years, becoming an established and professional Conference outfit. Everything started to change for the club in 2007 when they changed their name to Ebbsfleet United, designed to take advantage of development in the Ebbsfleet Valley. The newly named club gained notoriety following their takeover by MyFC in November 2007, finishing the season with their first ever national silverware, beating Torquay 1-0 at Wembley to lift the FA Trophy.
MyFC’s website curiously announced the Fleet attendance last season up to November was a huge increase on the previous seasons average. Sadly the figure announced, 1479, was not beaten in any game the league after that. However Fleet did manage a 3000 plus crowd to see their Trophy reign ended at the hands of Stevenage in the semi-final stage, and an initiative to allow free entry to their game against Swindon Supermarine saw 3750 pass through the door, showing the great potential the area has, if only the club could provide winning football on a regular basis.
On the pitch, Ebbsfleet steered clear of any relegation trouble but must have been disappointed with 14th place at the end of the season. Their league position must have been affected by a couple of long cup runs, notably as previously mentioned in the FA Trophy but they also managed to reach the semi final of the Setanta Shield before being dumped out by Forest Green.
So with the budget reigned in, it looks like a season of consolidation for the Fleet, with the likes of Long gone, and Gash about to go. As I write it looks like someone really wants Gash, Ebbsfleets top scorer last season, as a fresh bid for £40,000 has just been placed. I’m not really sure how the bidding club must feel having to wait on a members vote before upping their bid (I’d love to see two MyFC-style operations conduct such a transfer – one club votes on how much to bid, the other votes to reject it, the first club votes on a higher bid, and so on… the player would be out of contract by the time the clubs agree a fee!). Plus there are only a few clubs who could afford that kind of money… its certainly outside of our budget…
The owners have turned down another bid however, £10,000 from York for Player of the Year Darius Charles – a bit of a cheeky one that, as Charles only moved from Brentford in January for £25,000 – I think they were always going to tell York to do one. With an exodus of senior players, and a budget initially set at £4,000 p/w (although its risen to £4.500-ish as I write), Liam Daish must be hoping to keep hold of these players to rebuild a side around.
Most of you will know Stonebridge Road, as we have visited on three occasions (a friendly, a game against Dartford, and our victory against G&N in our aborted FA Trophy run). Personally I haven’t managed to make the journey yet, so naturally I’m looking forward to visiting for a relatively local game now we are in a national football league once more.
From all I’ve seen of Stonebridge Road it looks a proper old football ground. Except for the seats bolted onto the home end it looks as though it has remained unchanged since the 70’s. It will probably remain that way if plans to build a new stadium in the Ebbsfleet Valley come to fruition, and Ebbsfleet are quite lucky to be in the right place at the right time to benefit from an area in development (as we know we aren’t so lucky on that front!). If and when it does happen, for all the benefits of moving to a new arena, I’m sure leaving their long term ground will be a great loss to Fleet fans, however I can assure them these type of moves are always a lot easier if you have somewhere to move to…
The basic ground entry price at Ebbsfleet is rising to £15 next season (compared with our £12) but I haven’t been able to find seating prices, etc. Naturally this was voted for by the owners, who maybe didn’t factor in how this might affect Ebbsfleets casual support. For regulars there was an early bird deal, so they won’t suffer too much, but the club will need to play some decent football to pull in equivalent crowds in the current financial climate.
AFC Era – Just a couple of games as mentioned, a friendly in 2004 that finished 1-1, plus the magnificent 1-0 FA Trophy win in 2007.
All time Wimbledon –
Wimbledon’s sole defeat to G&N was a Southern League Premier Division Fixture at Stonebridge Road on 31st August 1976, where we were beaten 2-1 by the home side.
Ebbsfleet O/S – http://www.ebbsfleetunited.co.uk/
Ebbsfleet MAD – http://www.ebbsfleetunited-mad.co.uk/
Forum – http://www.eufcforum.com/forum/