OWNAFC: Non-league football club could be run by supporters using a phone app

OWNAFC,
The OWNAFC app has 2,500 members who will own and run a club when a takeover is completed

"This is all about people with a dream of owning a football club. To turn football on its head and take it back to the people."

This weekend, an English non-league club could have new owners - more than 2,500 of them.

They have each paid for shares, which will allow them to vote on all the club's boardroom decisions via mobile phone app OWNAFC.

The owners - who aren't connected except via the app - will decide on everything from signings to hiring and firing staff.

The biggest decision they have made so far is deciding to take over a club in the Midlands rather than the north west.

On Saturday, they will vote on the takeover. Like all decisions, it will be settled by majority vote.

"This is a live, real-time boardroom in their hands," OWNAFC founder Stuart Harvey tells BBC Sport.

"It's the ultimate experience of a being chairman with a big board of directors - each day dealing with monumental decisions of running a club.

"It replaces the boardroom nonsense we see at many clubs with the people that matter."

Harvey contacted 50 non-league clubs, and the side earmarked for a takeover is in "tier six or seven" of the English football pyramid. He is unable to name them because of a non-disclosure agreement.

Harvey's fellow OWNAs have paid £49 per share.

Last month BBC Sport reported on lower league French club Avant Garde Caennaise, where fans use an app to make in-game decisions.

But this model is similar to that used by Ebbsfleet FC when they were taken over by website MyFootballClub in 2008.

Membership of the community fan website, which initially stood at more than 27,000, dropped dramatically and it relinquished its shares in 2013.

"The difference is theirs was 10 years too early," says Harvey. "It was before iPhones became popular, before apps, and they were not using the technology we have today."

Decisions at OWNAFC
These are some of the tasks the OWNAFC members will be in control of

Harvey's aim is to build a self-sustainable club to move up the football ladder and has limited the ownership to 10,000 shares with the OWNAs always controlling at least 51% of the club.

The club they will vote on buying is debt-free - and the OWNAs will not be asked to put in any more money on top of their original stake.

Harvey says the club involved is "available for sale for a seven-figure sum" - and he and third parties will make up the difference.

"Everything will be reinvested in the club," says Harvey, 39, from Wigan.

"The secondary spend will be more people coming into the stadium and fans through the gates, increased sponsorship and enhancing facilities, and that should make the club self-sustainable in the future.

"Next season we will know the budget, and the OWNAs will decide how it is spent.

"We are giving people a second club to grow to love - for the football fan who is out priced in the modern game," he says.

"Take on the likes of Mike Ashley at Newcastle - to show what can be done at a club if fans have ownership."

If the takeover goes through, it will be subject to the Football Association's Owners' and Directors' Test.

"We have had some sceptical responses from existing fans when exploring club options, but we would be taking control of a club that wanted and needed change," says Harvey.

"It is something for the fans to embrace once they understand the concept, at the end of the day it will still be their football club."

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