By Guest Author
Currently top of the table in the sixth tier of English non-league football sits a team whose entire history you can chart on YouTube. Hashtag United was founded two years ago as part of a series on Spencer Owen’s YouTube channel and to say the team’s rise has been meteoric is an understatement.
On Saturday 14th October as part of England’s official annual non-league weekend, the club had a record-breaking attendance. In this article, we’re going to chart the club’s journey from pipe dream to one of the most popular social media teams in the UK.
The Next Chapter: The Non-League Journey
So with several hugely successful international tours to the US and across Europe under its belt, a former player plying their trade in the English Football League and viewing figures to rival even some Premier League fixtures it was clear that Hashtag United was meant for something more.
It was here where Spencer began pondering what the next chapter might be and after numerous discussions with the National League, it was announced in May of 2018 that Hashtag United would be joining the English Non-League system.
Inaugurated into the Eastern Senior League South, there were fears that opposition, fans and even bet makers wouldn’t accept the YouTube outfit, but if Hashtag’s latest record attendance of 497 is anything to go by then it seems English non-league football has taken the unique club to its heart.
Top of the table after 13 games played, Hashtag United are now managed by former East Thurrock United assistant manager Jay Devereux and while the team is much changed from Spencer’s original crop of school friends, a few still remain. Not least club Captain Jack Harrison and the club’s all-time top scorers Dan Brown and Ryan Adams.
The club now has its own YouTube channel after Spencer decided that as he was less involved in matches that the team deserved their own limelight, though he still provides live match commentary for the highlights uploaded 24 hours after match day. With more than 400,000 subscribers on Youtube and 170,000 followers on Twitter, the club is sure to continue growing at its incredible rate.
So, where did this all start?
Not many have had to work as hard as Spencer Owen for their success, the now social media star, started his career as the masked persona ‘The FIFA Playa’ on Copa 90. He’d travel across the country battling various YouTuber’s, celebrities and even professional footballers in games of Xtreme FIFA. The most famous of which was when he took Adebayo Akinfenwa, the self-proclaimed world’s strongest footballer, to a game of FIFA in the gym, lifting various weights each time either of them scored.
But soon Spencer ditched the snood and gave ‘The FIFA Playa’ the boot, rebranding his channel into Spencer Owen. He then began predominantly producing FIFA content, making a series based around his beloved West Ham and his pride as an England fan. As Owen found his feet as a content creator he began integrating more and more real-life football into his channel, culminating in the hugely successful Wembley Cup.
A ‘Soccer Aid’ for YouTuber’s, the Wembley Cup saw your favourite internet personalities’ battle it out on the pitch with the addition of some footballing legends, including Robbie Fowler, Robert Pires and Jay-Jay Okocha to name a few. It was here that Spencer saw the potential for a YouTube team, a team viewers could watch week in, week out and see the highs and lows of football from the player’s perspective. Humble beginnings, considering they are now ranked 7th most viewed on YouTube!
Don’t Forget To Hashtag It
No sooner than eight months after the Wembley Cup was uploaded to Spencer’s channel, Hashtag United was created.
Headed by Spencer himself, his two brothers Seb and Saunders Carmichael Brown also helped with the running of the club. With Seb, Spencer’s older brother, providing the logistical know-how, organising games and travel for the team, while Saunders, a Media graduate, helped with the production value of matches, capturing each of the games in a television broadcast standard. Spencer’s father also had a role to play, nicknamed Stevie CB, he served as the club’s physio.
A team made up of Spencer’s friends with varying football abilities, the team began playing different outfits who challenged them via social media. Instead of enlisting into a traditional Sunday League, Spencer devised a division’s style pyramid of play, similar to what can be seen on FIFA’s ultimate team. Given a set number of matches, the team would have to accumulate a certain number of points to earn rewards and progress to higher divisions.
As the club grew in stature and its fan base became bigger, Spencer and his team had an idea – they should have a Hashtag fan in their ranks.
Complete with a £3000 cash prize and a place in the Hashtag United changing room, Spencer sent out a tweet inviting his viewers to send in an application and attend an open trial for the chance to play for the YouTube club.
With hopefuls whittled down through a hugely successful series uploaded to Spencer’s channel called the ‘Hashtag Academy’, the fan who won the competition was 16-year-old Scott Pollock. The teenager soon joined the team and became a certain starter before eventually winning the man of the match at the most recent iteration of the Wembley Cup on the same pitch as Steven Gerrard.
The performance warranted plenty of praise and attracted a lot of interest with the young midfielder earning a trial at Premier League side Crystal Palace, before eventually signing a contract with Northampton Town who currently play their football in League Two of the EFL.
So with their next match against Little Oakley this weekend, are you going to tune in to watch the highlights or perhaps even attend the match yourself? For all things non-league be sure to stay tuned on our socials which you can find below.