Hashtag United: the rise of multimedia football.

In 2016, YouTuber and Media personality Spencer Owen formed Hashtag, which was then an exhibition team consisting of Spencer's long-term friends and acquaintances.

[A THREAD]
At the time, Owen had made waves with his football content and the exhibition 'Wembley Cup' tournament, which had brought together influencers and ex-professional footballers across its two iterations.
To begin with, Hashtag primarily competed against other exhibition sides, and tied up with several sponsors. Their brand, however, was very much catered towards the YouTube casual, with an emphasis on fun, amateur games with a flurry of goals.
It was fun, sure, but it wasn't anything new. Hashtag felt like another addition to the growing repertoire of YouTube football teams that were not taking themselves too seriously.
That all changed with the idea to enter the non-league pyramid. Suddenly, the club felt like a legitimate entity, and a cut above anything else on the YouTube/internet sphere.
However, that was also where the problems began. Evidently, Hashtag are not a typical club, and it's not just their name. While they did have a home stadium right from the off, as a club they didn't seem to belong to any particular location, or community.
However, Spencer and the club hierarchy digressed. They maintained that while the club name didn't reflect it, the club was very much rooted in Essex.

Eventually, they were drafted into the Division one (south) of the Essex senior league.
With that 'institutionalisation' came a host of changes. Spencer stepped down as player/manager and was replaced by Jay Devereux, a non-league veteran. Moreover, most of the original players had to stepped down, as well. Change was in the air.
Hashtag did very well in their first season, and won their league. They were on course for back to back promotions in the 2019/20 season, as well, but stayed put in their league due to the suspension of the non-league season.
This season, they're competing in the FA Cup and have won their opening games in the competition.

They have also recently formed a fully functioning youth setup and senior women's team!
The question then arises: why talk about this "internet" club? Isn't it a bit arbitrary?

Well, perhaps. But Hashtag United could very well come to represent a watershed moment in grassroots sports ownership and marketing.
Over the years, Hashtag has sought to create a brand which can be marketed across platforms and multimedia. Their YouTube channel has over half a million subscribers, and has a dedicated following.
Perhaps, more importantly, Hashtag has successfully managed to create a sense of community that isn't rooted in a geographical location. Whilst grassroots football is always a communal affair, it usually manifests in a very small area.
At Hashtag, their "superfans" and online fans come from everywhere. It's hard to understate how alien a concept this is to the lower leagues of football.
Is it potentially troublesome? Perhaps. It is in some ways signalling the onset of the commoditization of community driven football, which till now has served as a strong social fabric for local communities.
Hashtag's formula is excellent, and therefore, repeatable. There could be a scenario where enough clubs are being launched and run as social media entities, and thereby, drawing away from tangible communal support
Football is already an ultra-capitalist dystopia, if you will, and this sense of community is already being eroded at higher levels, especially with the globalisation of the sport.

Not that that is a bad thing in any way. It is not.
As it stands, it's a morally neutral transformation. It just is.

In all likelihood, though, that is unlikely. Hashtag has served as a very hands-on passion project for a YouTuber who has consistently shown an interest in football based content.
In the age of fast moving interest and fads, it's questionable whether there would be enough interest in an investment that isn't all that lucrative to begin with.
For Owen and Co, this is a way of giving back to football, and not necessarily a money spinner. That is why Hashtag copycats don't seem to be cropping up everywhere.

It's a lot of effort, and effort isn't in vogue.

[End of thread]

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