The news that Blue Square Premier League club EBBSFLEET UNITED F.C. (one division below the Football League) is now run by internet MyFC and twenty thousand 'members', is both exciting and weird.
Each 'member' has actually paid £35 on line (about $75.00 US) to have one vote each on all decisions from team selection, choice of manager, stadium improvements, buying players etc.The web site www.ebbsfleetunited.co.uk collapsed yesterday under the demand and interest. 1,400 members are based in USA, 366 in Norway, 25 in Japan plus paid up 'owners' from Tonga. Malawi, Panama...
Ebbsfleet United recently changed their name from Gravesend & Northfleet and was chosen to be taken over from a number of clubs who were interested. They are lucky to attract 1,000 fans a match at Stonebridge Road in Gravesend, Kent although the stadium holds 5,000, and have one positive going for them. Today the under channel train service switches from Waterloo(south of the Thames) to London St. Pancras Station and with the new high speed line London is only 2 hours 15 minutes away from Paris Gare du Nord by train, and the nearby station to the stadium, Ebbsfleet International is a major stop for passengers south of the River Thames( 15 minutes St. Pancras-Ebbsfleet International). In fact EUROSTAR, the train company that has the route is one of the club's major sponsors and will run up to 4 trains each hour to Paris, while Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is even closer. The club is ninth in the league and obviously they want to make the Football League Division II as soon as possible.
Club manager is former Republic of Ireland National player Liam Daish, who played under Jack Charlton, who has called the new internet idea ' daft'. MyFC founder is a former journalist, Will Brooks. The players were told about the deal yesterday and are excited. Club directors will be honorary (unpaid) and of the £700,000 available so far, about a third will be used to wipe out debt, legal costs etc. By the time of the January 2008 transfer window, coach Daish may have about £250,000 to strengthen the team. At this level players earn about £300-£400.00 a week, so he has a big budget. With the world wide web and the massive international media interest, more sponsors will probably be attracted, but what happens if half the 'owners' show up and demand a seat in the Directors Box, free entrance and free drinks.
Train lovers like me, and maybe you out there, are excited about the £800 million renovation of St. Pancras, which is next door to King's Cross and a short walk to Euston. It means that from the British rail network, a smooth link to the continent is possible by train rather than having to cross London to get to Waterloo. The French were not too excited about Waterloo, commemorating their great defeat by Lord Wellington, either. In 1868 architect/engineer William Barton was responsible for what was then the largest enclosed space in the world, his giant rail 'shed. It has been redone in its original splendour after being saved by well known poet and train lover Sir John Betjeman, when it was due to be pulled down in the 1960's. the station has been extended to take the the under-the- channel trains, and boasts the world's longest champagne bar at 90 meters long, and lots of up market shops and eateries. No Burger King or McDonalds here.
Another highlight is the giant clock in the main hall and a 9 meter high new bronze sculpture 'The Meeting Place' by Paul Day. It features 2 lovers hugging each other. There are some wonderful train stations all over Europe. My favourites are York Station, with the longest platform in Britain, Edinburgh, the new Berlin station whose opening I attended just prior to FIFA World Cup 2006, MIlan Centrale, Copenhagen,Paris Gare de Lyon, Helsinki, Innsbruck, Hamburg,... If you have the chance, spend a few hours at the National Rail Museum in York,the world's largest and best rail museum, which, like most British museums, is free of charge.
If you are tired of seeing the same referee, then just take note of the world's smallest soccer league, based in St. Mary's in the Scilly Isles, off the coast of Cornwall. There are only 2 teams, The Garrison Gunners and Woolpack Wanderers. They play each other 16 times in the 'league' each season, plus 3 times in cup competitions. Believe it or not but David Grottick has refereed EVERY Match for the last 15 years.