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Web fan-owned football club heads to Wembley final

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Updated Ebbsfleet United, the English semi-professional team owned by fans who bought their shares on the Net, is off to Wembley today for the FA Trophy Final.

The Conference side is taking on Torquay United in the final of a competition organised for teams in the five tiers below the English Football League. Saturday marks Ebbsfleet's first trip to Wembley. Pundits think 30,000 fans will attend the game.

Ebbsfleet has been owned since February by the web-based venture MyFootballClub.co.uk, which financed a £700k takeover. Around 27,000 members paid £35 to own a slice of the football club, with running costs coming from ticket sales and other sources of revenue. The original idea - that members would vote on team selection on the internet - was abandoned (probably wisely). But members retain the right to approve or veto proposed transfers.

Taking arguments that rightly ought to stay in pubs onto the internet was always a dodgy idea. As it stands, head coach Liam Daish, a former Coventry defender and Republic of Ireland International, has the ultimate say on team selection.

Ebbsfleet runs a well designed website, that's as good (if not better) than many Premiership clubs. The club's organisation - and management structure - are a million miles away from debt-financed takeovers that are becoming the norm in England's top-tier Premier division.

The team's average gate is around 1,000 but as many as 20,000 fans are expected to make the short trip to Wembley today. The FA have accepted Ebbsfleet's request for a live online feed of the FA Trophy Final, so that overseas members can view the big game.

Before May 2007 Ebbsfleet was called Gravesend & Northfleet. It was renamed (following a public consultation) so that it shares its name with the nearby Ebbsfleet International railway station, the Eurostar terminal that serves trains running from King Cross, London to France and Belgium. Eurostar sponsors Ebbsfleet United. ®

Update

Congratulation to Ebbsfleet who beat Torquay 1-0 on Saturday with a goal by Chris McPhee in first half injury time, winning the FA trophy in front on an impressive crowd of 40,186. The BBC's report on the game can be found here.

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