September 06, 2010
Owning a professional or minor league franchise has always been an expensive venture, requiring deep pockets to cover costs.
Enter Toronto-based Alan Kasperski, who's trying to bring the idea of Internet ownership of a sports team over from Europe -- and applying it to a junior hockey team.
The price of ownership? It might be as low as $50; or as the Toronto Star put it, "four beers at a big-league game."
The idea of fans owning a team via the Internet began three years ago when the website MyFootballClub took over lower level English soccer team Ebbsfleet United. About 27,000 fans joined the site and each paid £35 to help buy the club and become part owners.
From there, the owners would vote online on things like ticket prices, player transfers, player selection, advertising campaigns, and jersey designs. A main board and management team was set up to help run things from above, but majority of the decisions were left to the 27,000 owners to decide online.
In the club's first year under this unusual ownership, Ebbsfleet United captured the FA Trophy, a tournament that features all semi-professional clubs in England.
Back to Kasperski, who wants to do the same in Canada. He's already approached Hockey Canada about the idea and the CBC about kicking off the campaign during Hockey Day in Canada on Feb. 12. He isn't looking to attempt this with a major junior team, with the high price tags associated with those franchises; rather, a Junior "A" team whose value is much more affordable to suit his idea.
As he told Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star, Kasperski says that sometimes fans are the one's with the good ideas, not the few executives running the ship in expensive suits:
"If one man with lots and lots of money can own a team, why couldn't lots and lots of people, each with a little money, own a team, too?" he wonders in his proposal, adding, "the wisdom of the crowd says that a big bunch of people are very often smarter than a small group.
"It's the ultimate rotisserie league. You would get to make real decisions about real people using real money."
Which leads us to the big-picture question: Could the Internet own and operate an NHL franchise under this plan?
With the amount of love thrown the way of the Phoenix Coyotes because of their off-ice issues with ownership and cloudy future, there are enough people out there willing to chip in $100 or so to help buy the team, no? We'd only need about 1.4 million investors ... which could make online voting a little chaotic.
Hey, maybe it could work -- as long as we make sure there isn't an overabundance of money flowing in from the province of Manitoba. Otherwise, there might be a surprise appearance of Mayflower moving trucks one night in Glendale ...