YouTube football seems like a pretty controversial subject these days, if only because so many people don’t really understand it. The idea that a club can start on this platform and slowly work their way up to the big time is just a little bit odd, probably because it’s unconventional – and because some people just can’t open their mind up to something new.
That’s quite the sweeping statement but for the most part, it’s true. All you have to do is take one look at the reaction to Hashtag United in order to really grasp how divisive this sub-section of the football community can be.
Back in 2016, ‘The Tags’ first emerged as a new YouTube club started off by Spencer Owen. At the time there was a simple premise behind the idea: the team would work their way up through the divisional system, similar to the structure on FIFA, playing against a variety of intriguing opponents along the way. As the years went on it became clear that something bigger was coming and in 2018, it was confirmed that Hashtag United would be entering the non-league pyramid.
After cruising to promotion in their first season they looked on track to do the same thing in their second, only for COVID-19 to stand in their way. If anything, though, that has allowed their legend to grow even further thanks to their entry into the FA Cup.
The expectations were low heading into their first ever tie in the competition but they managed to get off to a great start by beating Park View 2-1 in the Extra Preliminary Round. Then, they beat Felixstowe & Walton on penalties to set up a date on the BBC against Soham Town Rangers.
In front of the lights and cameras, which they’re pretty used to, they once again won on penalties to keep their FA Cup dream alive and well.
They aren’t being bankrolled by billionaires and they can’t be compared to the MK Dons of the world – because they’ve got a real grassroots movement that legitimately has the potential to take them to some pretty lofty heights. Sure, there are some bigger games between bigger teams that can be found over at the betting page, but the heart and future of non-league football really does rest in the likes of Hashtag.
They aren’t likely to make it all the way through to the first round proper courtesy of the fact that they’ve got three more games left to go before getting to that point, but they don’t need to get that far to prove that they’re legit. They’ve already done that purely through their ability to become a sustainable football club.
Instead of throwing stones in their direction we should all be championing them for what they’ve been able to accomplish up to this point. Sure, their name might be a little bit odd and sure, older generations are going to have their issues with it, but this project is showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down.