“I think that YouTube could become the home of sport.” These are the words of YouTuber Brian Davis, known popularly as ‘The True Geordie’, in a documentary produced on the February boxing match between fellow YouTube personalities Olajide Olatunji (KSI) and Joe Weller. The fight, won in the third round by Olatunji, has been watched more than 25 million times on the video-sharing website, and speaks volumes about the advancing association between social media and sport. But although this is boxing, Davis’ comments could have a lasting impact on the viewership of football across the world.
For years, the only possible way to experience the emotions, intensity, sights and sounds of a football ground on matchday, would be to attend a game yourself. Even with the expanding amount of televised Premier and Football League coverage since the 1990s, nothing could ever compare to having the action of the beautiful game unfold just a few rows in front of your very eyes.
However, several YouTubers are now helping their thousands of regular viewers to experience a game from the comfort of their own home, all through the power of ‘vlogging’, a genre of video making where the content creator documents their experiences at different football matches, as a supporter or neutral, by taking their camera with them and proceeding to film the journey, atmosphere, facilities and food, amongst other features of a typical game of football. This, the exact structure of Matt Smith’s ‘On The Road’ YouTube series.
Known online as ‘Smiv’, Smith attends different Football League and Non-League fixtures across the country each week, recording and rating his day at each ground during the videos. The experiences that he wishes to document on his channel remain relevant at any time, as rather than paying specific attention to the match itself, Smith instead focuses the majority of his time on recording every aspect of the game’s surrounding events; his journey and its atmosphere, to name a couple. Thanks to his willingness to experience different stadia and its set of supporters, Smith has amassed just under 50,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, averaging between 60-80k views per ‘On The Road’ video. This, perhaps due to the fact Smiv’s creativity allows supporters to delve into different matches, as well as their own, at a weekend.
Not only are these creators living the dream, developing a career in football through their own creativity and vision, but their consistent coverage of the sport has presented them with opportunities to expand their viewership to new audiences in different countries or age-ranges. An example of this Ellis Platten, owner of YouTube channel ‘AwayDays’, a young vlogger who began groundhopping for his channel at Non-League Lowestoft Town in August 2014. Since then, Platten has fallen in love with Portuguese giants FC Porto – all because his video of the aforementioned’s tie with league rivals Sporting Lisbon went viral.
“It was more shock to be honest”, Platten told me, “The aim of any video is never for it to blow up, I just wanted to experience a different league and what happened, happened!”
Since Platten began his association with the Premiera Liga club, he’s been gifted the chance to interview Brazilian left-back Alex Telles and record the side’s Champions League encounter with Red Bull Leipzig in an executive box, as well as having his content promoted by the club’s official social media accounts.
“I happened to get an email from New Balance, shortly before the 2017-18 kit launch, they wanted me to reveal the kit to the UK and fly out to meet a couple of the players”, Platten revealed.
“I was really starstruck, it was a great experience and one I’ll hopefully be able to do again this year, even though there was a big language barrier!”
Platten’s story is a great example of the newfound popularity created by matchday video-making, as well as the impact that it can have on the individuals that engage in it. It’s this popularity that hasn’t just led to thousands of viewers tuning in every weekend, but additionally to dozens of new content creators, collectively filming their reactions to specific moments during the games, or filming their own personal highlights of matches themselves. Football vlogging has grown so popular that many clubs in the EPL and EFL’s ’92’ have dedicated supporters who bring their cameras to the club’s home and away ties, producing content to be posted to their own channels every weekend.
However with every revolutionary change to aspects within football comes its problems, with the EFL laying down strict rules and regulations on recording, stating that “no material that is recorded by a mobile telephone or other mobile device may be published to any third parties, including social networking sites.” That is, without permission of the club of course.
These new laws led to changes in the way matchday vlogs could be produced, with vloggers turning the camera on themselves, in order to capture their reactions, whilst also complying with Football League rule. ‘Broadcast Yourself’, YouTube said in 2005 – by 2017, these creators had no choice.
“I always knew there would be some sort of change”, said Ellis Platten of AwayDays, “I started to record my face, but if anything I felt this made my content more authentic.”
This, showing that with all problems come a solution – just as the community of football vloggers online are beginning to show. YouTuber Adam Thurston provides a brilliant example of this, his clip of Bristol City supporters celebrating their stoppage time winner over Manchester United in the Carabao Cup amassing well over one million views on Twitter.
Recording on matchday for social media is rising in popularity, and some incredible creators are emerging as a result, such as Smith and Platten. The content of the hundreds who post it, is rapidly becoming a revolutionary way to watch football, and will continue to rise in the coming years!
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