Edusport: The Ebbsfleet-esque club chasing Scottish Premiership football without ANY fans

That was the promise made by the footballer who proposes to form a club from scratch – funded by small investors across the world – with the aim of competing in the Scottish Premiership within seven years.
That was the promise made by the footballer who proposes to form a club from scratch – funded by small investors across the world – with the aim of competing in the Scottish Premiership within seven years.

Did you know there’s a French club playing in the Scottish lower leagues? Well, kind of. Edusport offer scholarships to French students, with over 70 foreign players on their books. They train in the shadow of Hampden Park, playing their games in the Scottish Borders, but they are an organisation that has roots planted on the other side of the Channel. That in itself is enough to pique the interest.

Now, though, Edusport plan on making even bigger ripples, last week launching a membership scheme which they hope will propel them into the Scottish Premiership by 2025. Currently in the country’s Lowland League, the club is offering £25 annual subscriptions with members having a say in the choosing of a new name, the picking of the strip even the signing of new players.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a scheme like that has caught the national attention, with Ebbsfleet United trying something similar years ago. But unlike Ebbsfleet, Edusport are lacking something rather important – a physical fanbase. Their games are largely attended by scouts, coaches and the families of players.

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So how big of a problem is that? Can a football club exist with no real fanbase to speak of? The time-honoured cliche states that football is nothing without fans, but is that really true? Edusport will provide a compelling case study in this regard.

Many will argue that a football club has an inherent responsibility to its community. After all, most clubs in the United Kingdom have their roots in the industries and interests of the local area. Manchester United, for instance, started out with the intention of giving local rail workers something to do at the weekends.

This is where a sense of cynicism comes from – what is the purpose of a club if it isn’t to serve its fans? This is what have led some to scrutinise Edusport’s plans, questioning whether profit is the primary motivation behind the scheme, particularly because the £25 annual subscription pays for a membership rather than a shareholding.


Chris Ewing, the former Motherwell and Stranraer player who is now the owner of Edusport, might argue that this argument presumes what a real ‘fan’ is. In the space of a week, Edusport have already attracted members from across the globe, putting their own money to help them achieve their ambition of making the Scottish top flight within seven years. So what makes them any less of a fan than someone who can attend matches in person?

In the individual case of Edusport, they hope to build a stadium of their own in the not too distant future, and so there is potential for them to find a community of their own. At present, though, as a local enterprise it’s difficult to make a case for Edusport. The academy side of the club has a proven track record in developing young players, both in a sporting and educational sense, but very few of those young players are local.

Edusport is not a traditional club and so it could be argued that their model shouldn’t follow traditional guidelines. Through, the organisation wants to forge a strong online presence, becoming, in a sense, a football club for the internet age. Little detail has been given on how members will be able to follow games, but a live streaming service would raise a number of questions about what the sport considers true ‘fans’ to be.

Many believe Edusport’s scheme to be overly ambitious. Only one team, Gretna, has ever enjoyed such a meteoric rise through the Scottish leagues, winning promotion season after season as they went from the bottom to the top in four years, and they vanished just as quickly as they appeared, going bust following the death of their millionaire owner.

They too had no real physical fanbase to speak of, with their stadium so small the SPL forced them to play home games 75 miles away in Motherwell. Small clubs can succeed, even at the top level. Eibar, for instance, attract only a few thousand supporters to their home games, yet are fighting for a top six place in La Liga this season.

Arsenal’s Europa League opponents Ostersunds are another strong example of a club with a modest fanbase that is competing a high level. But Edusport could set an unparalleled precedent should they succeed in their proposal. What is a football club without fans? We might be about to find out.