Embracing the power of the Internet, we all do it. Sometimes, the Internet gives a warm cuddle back too, even to the most unlikely of recipients. Nick Robbins looks at an odd couple.
Choosing which football club to support can be a monumental occasion in any person’s life.
Of course, there are those who will argue there is no choice, preferring simply to follow family tradition or which football club lies closest to their place of birth. Noble sentiments indeed, but for others it is which club captured their imagination most during their nascent football-watching years, or which club was the stomping ground of their favourite player. My allegiance was shaped by which team my brother picked for me on Ultimate Soccer Manager 2 – perhaps not the most romantic of starts but I regard them as ‘my club’ as much as your average Kop-dweller regards Liverpool theirs. So really, when you think about it sheer coincidence is as good a reason to support a club as any other. Right?
This is fledgling story of the relationship between Conference North strugglers Redditch United Football Club and the social news website Reddit.com. The brighter amongst you will have seen the connection already, and from this shared moniker a relationship is starting to emerge that could immensely benefit both parties and bring a small football club in a small Worcestershire town worldwide support.
The unlikely alliance began when the near 8,500 members of Reddit’s “soccer” community felt the need to find a club that they all could support. Various options were discussed but the gavel fell on Redditch United Football Club, which bore all the criteria that the community was looking for: they were underdogs and the new fans had a chance of making a serious impact on the club. With this, the ‘Worldwide Supporters of Redditch United F.C’ group was set up and support was drummed up. The number currently stands at 321, modest at the moment but still capable of having a large effect on the club, as this number stands greater than the attendance for Redditch’s last home game.
The club’s new status as a worldwide footballing beacon has not gone unnoticed by long time fans either. I was able to speak to Redditchbluenose86 who became involved as a liaison between the new and existing fans (he was active on both Reddit and unofficial Redditch Supporter’s forums but I think the new title suits better):
“At first I thought it was just spam, or at most a wind-up (as did other members[of the Redditch United FC forum]), until one day I thought I'd double check and couldn't believe the level of interest Redditch United had from over the UK and even overseas! It's quite a novel feeling to know that people as far as New York City are cheering on such a small time club as ours”
Moreover, he is optimistic about the benefits that could accrue to the club:
“…financially it could do wonders. Plans are in the pipeline for the TRUST (The Redditch United Supporters Trust) to set up an eBay store, in order to sell merchandise and raise money for the club. This money would help to secure the future of Redditch United, as well as extend boundaries as to what calibre of players we can afford, enabling us to compete with the bigger teams in our division.”
In a town larger than Burnley but with the capacity to draw 0.5% of the number of fans the Clarets do , the sudden support, both financially and otherwise, of 320 new fans represents a major shift for the club. This number is expected to grow as well with greater access for new fans to see highlights of Redditch matches on a YouTube channel being established in the near future.
Christoph Wernli, resident of Rome and a participant in the MyFC-Ebbsfleet United experiment, is cautiously optimistic about the relationship between the two parties. After his experiences with Ebbsfleet United that left him fed up with expectations remaining unmet, he is keen to see a different campaign for Redditch - favouring a more ‘back seat’ approach:
“… generate interest, raise some cash, but don't raise expectations for Redditors [members of Reddit], and surely do not create the possibility to run Redditch UFC into the ground.”
Reddit as a community is renowned for its generosity towards what it deems worthy causes and the potential for Redditch United FC to see a financial windfall is definitely there. Ideas to become the clubs official sponsor have been mooted and plans to redesign the clubs website, film matches and the establishment of TRUST are well underway. TigerStyle, a New Yorker, remains confident that the Reddit-Redditch campaign can succeed and is confident that it will not just fizzle out and sees himself getting over to The Valley to watch his newly adopted team live in the near future.
It is refreshing to see that a community can still come together around a unique cause and that a sheer coincidence can be the starting point for something that has the capacity to initiate great, and beneficial, change. The campaign is in its early stages but great strides are being made by the old supporters and the new breed to solidify Redditch’s position as the newest internet phenomenon. This is a campaign whose greatest challenge will be to first maintain, and later create, support but the foundations are being laid and with Redditch recording their first win of the season and progressing to the nest round of the FA Cup perhaps things are looking up.
Thanks to TigerStyle, Christoph Wernli and Redditchbluenose86 for taking the time to answer my questions
Nick writes regularly for IBWM and you can follow him on Twitter @robbinsnick