Hashtag United have come a long way since they were founded by football YouTuber Spencer Owen, and with Cesar Azpilicueta as co-owner, this semi-professional team has its sights set to the top.
The Birth of Hashtag United – Formation and Vision
In March 2016, football YouTuber Spencer Brown set up Hashtag United to play a variety of exhibition sides to be uploaded to their YouTube channel. And what turned into a cult team soon translated into 100,000 followers on YouTube, and nearly 50,000 on Twitter.
They played teams full of comedians, the GB Deaf Team, a staff team from Manchester City including Grame Le Saux and Ray Parlour, and even won the EE Wembley Cup.
In 2018, Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta became co-owner, and they joined the football league pyramid for the 2018/19 season, starting in Division One of the Spartan South Midlands League before moving to the Easter Counties League.
Over the years, they have been promoted to the North Division of the Isthmian League, and then gained promotion to the Isthmian League’s Premier Division after winning 21 consecutive games in the 2022/23 season.
Key Players – Faces Behind the Hashtag United Legacy
Jermaine Francis is regarded by many as the best ever player to have featured for Hashtag United. The midfielder moved this summer to Chelmsford FC as his exploits were recognised. He joined in early 2022 after spells in the Chelsea, Reading and QPR academies, and earned the Best New Signing Award.
Another key signing is Scott Pollock. In 2017 he won a national academy competition in May, appeared at the EE Wembley Cup where he was man of the match, and was given a trial at Crystal Palace. The 22-year-old however went on to join Northampton Town, and is now at Yeovil Town.
Right now they can point to teenager Teddy Curd, a England youth international on loan from Chelsea, Somalian international Sak Hassan, and former Sunderland , Wolves and Cardiff defender Greg Halford as their most impressive players, demonstrating their ability to attract players from across the world, and from teams as high as the Premier League.
Unique Features – What Sets Hashtag United Apart
Hashtag United is quite unlike any other side. They have 40 different teams, with men’s and women’s first teams the biggest sides, plus youth teams , Azheimer’s teams, walking teams and disability teams, amongst many others. That gives the side more than 500 players in total.
Owen’s YouTube channel, Spencer FC, saw his team playing friendlies across the world, before joining the non-league setup. With more than half a million YouTube subscribers and Instagram each, and hundreds of thousands more on Twitter and TikTok, they get huge online audiences for their games, and hundreds at their games at Len Salmon Stadium in Essex.
With fan engagement the reason for the whole club’s existence, Spencer Brown’s team gives supporters the chance to feel a part of the club from around the world, whether they are at the ground or watching on their phone.
Impact on the Football Community – Hashtag United’s Influence
Hashtag United makes a big deal of the fact that they are self-sufficient. Using their fame online, they have generated sponsorship deals and worldwide attention, and they are aiming to buy their own ground.
With their numerous teams, including women’s, those with disabilities, youth and walking sides, they are making positive steps for inclusivity and showing other lower-ranked clubs how they might find fortune and success.
Fan Engagement with Socios.com – Building a Community.
With around half of its fanbase based outside the UK, Hashtag United has to make sure its social media presence is engaging and entertaining. A penalty challenge has been seen more than two million times, and match highlights usually get more than 150,000 views each. Nevertheless, they’ve had supporters travel from as far as Brazil and Australia to take in a game.
They’ve translated that presence into sponsorship deals from companies like Adidas, Football Manager and Lucozade, and also pay for viewers to stream their games. By leaving out a geographical element to their team name, they also appeal to fans from every country, while also attracting fans from the local area. Fans also appreciate the access to their favourite players, who are far easier to reach than superstars such as Mo Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Future Aspirations – The Road Ahead for Hashtag United
Seb Brown is hoping to afford to build the club’s own stadium. For now, they rent four different locations but try to retain as much of their income as possible. For the long-term, they want to find how many promotions they can manage before they come up against a natural ceiling,
They are building awareness of the club’s brand on Football Manager and with collaborations with sports companies, and even other football clubs. Brown, though, is looking ahead to the next 50 years, and has even suggested Hashtag United could eventually reach the Championship.