Motorsport Thoughts

Friday, November 16, 2007


A couple of days ago, it was announced in Britain that the members of a website ( were to purchase a controlling stake in an English football (soccer) club, Ebbsfleet United. [for those in Britain, Ebbsfleet were known as Gravesend and Northfleet until this year, and are based on the eastern outskirts of London]. The deal is to be completed in the next few weeks. Here is a link to the story:

The details of this are pretty interesting reading. Fifty thousand members of the website expressed an interest in buying the stake in a football club (none specifically mentioned), and there was a vote on which club to buy into and after removing the unrealistic options they went for Ebbsfleet. The members were then told that it was time for them to stump up some money or back out, and twenty thousand of them went for it with £35 each (about $80 AUD). The 20,000 people – including one of my mates who lives over 200 miles from where the team is based - of them have therefore spent £700,000 ($1.61m AUD) between them which gives the fans a 51% stake in the club. It is anticipated that the fans will be asked for more money year-on-year, so the initial payment is not a one-off. However, as a stakeholder the fans now have the deciding say in all major club decisions, transfers [which are big news much like in motor racing], and even team selection – effectively taking some of the manager's powers away.

For those of you not in Britain, I should mention a bit about football (soccer) and who Ebbsfleet United are. Football is the most popular sport in Britain, which isn't the same elsewhere. We get an enormous amount of press coverage in our media, and the top players are able to attract massive salaries. Over the past 15 years the English Premiership has opened its doors to limitless numbers of foreign superstars, and the game is ruled by TV money from all the coverage as it's become kind of an international superleague. The top footballers in England can earn about £130,000 (about $300,000 AUD) per WEEK. The premiership consists of 20 teams, and many of the players from there will earn at least half the amount just mentioned per week. To compare with another current topic of discussion, Shakey Byrne and Tom Sykes were reportedly offered £70,000 and £35,000 a YEAR respectively by Paul Bird to remain with his team in British Superbikes. That shows just how much money is going around in football in the UK.

Admittedly football is like everything money-wise; i.e the fat cats at the top have it all and the majority below them have comparatively little with the gap seemingly getting wider as time passes. The English Football League consists of four divisions totalling 92 teams, with lower divisions after that stretching right down to complete amateurs and pub teams. Ebbsfleet are just below the auspices of the Football League – as I write they're a close 9th in the division below, so 101st best club in the country if you will. Players in that division could be paid about £500 a week at the better teams (, so not small potatoes but a massive drop down from Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal & Chelsea etc. About 1,000 people turn up to watch Ebbsfleet play their home matches every two weeks. People who follow football would know the team name, but not a great deal about the club and most likely never see a match on TV.

So why have I just written four fairly hefty paragraphs about football?

Well, it makes you think...if 20,000 people – nearly all of whom only have a minimal level of knowledge - are willing to put up £700,000 between them to purchase half a small football club, could the same work in racing? Obviously not for a big team, but what about a national Superstock team or something? I read an advert in Motorcycle Racer magazine at the start of this season for places in the European Superstock 600 championship costing about £18,000. National championships would surely be less, with much-reduced travelling for the team. Motorsport clearly has much less coverage in Britain than football (as demonstrated above), but with the amounts involved and complexity being less, surely it could be a possibility.


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