Hashtag United is a young club with a huge story. Founded in 2016 by Youtuber Spencer Owen – who is known as Spencer FC online – the club has created quite a history in its four years of existence. Hashtag began as a club which played for fun in exhibition matches against other online entertainers or Sunday league teams; this included the likes of a Manchester City staff team.
The team originally began as a group of Spencer and his friends from his school days. Hashtag were attaining millions of views week in week out and even arranged two friendly matches at Wembley, this was called the Wembley Cup which Hashtag United managed to pick up once. Owner of the club Spencer Owen had other ideas in 2017, he wanted to almost lose the â€˜YouTube clubâ€™ persona and become a semi-professional side. They were officially a semi-professional club in the 2018-19 season playing in the Eastern Counties League which they went on to win.
That brings us up to date. Hashtag are now in the Essex Senior League which they were on track to win before all non-league football was cancelled. If they were promoted, that would have taken them one step closer to the ultimate dream of playing in the Premier League.
Scott Pollock: one of our own
Hashtag United have a whopping 489,000 subscribers on YouTube and they thought that with their big following they could launch an academy series; this would be filmed by the club and posted every week with the first episode airing in February 2017 on the Spencer FC channel with over one million subscribers. Each episode would showcase players from all over the country and their ability. They would slowly narrow it down to a last four and have a vote on who would be admitted into the club with a one-year contract.
The winner was a young Scott Pollock, this helped gain Pollock recognition as he played in the Wembley Cup 2017 where he would face off with legends like Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Robert Pires. Despite all the icons of the game playing, the Tags player managed to grasp the man of the match award. Shortly after the Wembley Cup he would be offered trials by Leicester City and Crystal Palace but unfortunately, he didn’t make it. He now plays for his hometown club Northampton Town, where he has made 20 professional appearances at the time of writing, scoring one goal.
A branch of business
The club has very much branched out from the main Hashtag United mould. When the semi-professional status was revealed, many players believed they were not good enough even the owner Spencer. This is why they launched a Sunday team who began in Division Two of the Brentwood Sunday League. The Sunday team would feature many of the original players who had already gained a relationship with the fans and was still watched week in week out by supporters all over the world. With all of this momentum, the Sunday team was promoted to Division One in their first season where they have since remained.
They also launched an academy team after two successful seasons of the academy series, they knew it was time to launch this team not just for the clicks but for the future of their side, the academy team competes in the Next Level Football League.
The Tags donâ€™t just have assets within the footballing world, they also have an eSports team which plays FIFA. They have managed to acquire some of the worldâ€™s best eSports players including Harry Hesketh. The newest member of the Hashtag Family is the Hashtag Womenâ€™s team who were formerly AFC Basildon Women. This merge was announced in April 2020 and will begin at the start of the 2020-21 season; the deal includes the Under-23 and Under-18 sides, too.
Since launching in 2016, Hashtag United have gone through two kit manufactures and three kit sponsors. The team have always played with a yellow and blue kit, with the first two being made by Umbro and sponsored by EE and later sponsored by Top Eleven. In 2018, Hashtag announced their new partnerships with Football Manager and Adidas. Football Manager has had a fantastic impact on the club, bringing a new graphics pack on matchday. It isnâ€™t just sponsors and kit manufactures Hashtag have had many of.
The Tags have had two homes moving into their third. The first stadium Hashtag played in was the Coles Park Stadium which they shared with Haringey Borough in their first season of semi-professional football.
They were later ordered by the Essex Senior League to move to Tilburyâ€™s Chadfields for the 2019-20 season. In March of this year, the club officially announced their switch to the Len Salmon Stadium which they will share with Bowers & Pitsea for this upcoming season.
The semi-professional experience
In Hashtag Unitedâ€™s first season of semi-professional football, they managed to gain an average attendance of 158 with their highest attendance being 470. In front of this crowd, Hashtag played 36 games in the Eastern Counties League Division 1 South. In these 36 games, they won 26, drew six and only lost a jaw-dropping four. They finished the league campaign lifting the trophy with a +56 goal difference and seven points clear of second-placed Coggeshall United.
They gained promotion to the Essex Senior League and still play in this league as it was cancelled amid coronavirus fears, they were on track to do a double promotion which is rather impressive for a â€˜YouTube clubâ€™. The manager Jay Devereux gained them promotion in the first season and had them in prime position to go top with three games in hand and one point between Hashtag and league leaders Saffron Walden Town; it looked inevitable with 10 games to go for the Tags that they would bring the Essex Senior League home.
A return from the coronavirus pandemic for Hashtag United
Hashtag will definitely find it much easier to return to football than other teams in their league as they have a very strong team as well as an experienced manager in Jay Devereux. Hashtag also do not rely on ticket sales as they make income from monetised videos and sponsorships, with the position they were in before the pandemic it looks like promotion will be less of a rollercoaster and more of a straight road uphill. With football looking to return soon, Hashtag United have been updating their millions of fans with Instagram posts telling them how they will return to football safely. At the moment, it seems both the men and womenâ€™s teams are now training in small groups maintaining their distance after lockdown restrictions were eased earlier in the month. It may take longer than expected to see Hashtag run out the tunnel at their new home in a new season, though, as the non-league clubs will probably want to return as late as possible so fans can make them some money to keep up with the likes of Hashtag.
It will doubtlessly be a good journey for young football fans to follow along with, it will also get more young people attending their local non-league club and generating money to give non-league a boost.
Whether you like Hashtag United or not, you have to admire the job Spencer and the club have done and this shows that with hard work any dream really can come true. This isnâ€™t just a monetisable club to turn a profit, this club is the future.
The club is one of the most followed football clubs in the United Kingdom and this is all because Hashtag interact with their fans and let them have a say. They broadcast their games, have fun chats and games with their players and let fans from all around the world build a bond with not just the players but the staff in the background as well. It may not a traditional community team, but it has its own community online that is inspired by the people at the club on a daily basis.