sports gazette

The world’s first managerless football club

Published: 30 Nov 2016

United London FC are the world’s first football club without a traditional manager.

They instead put fans in the dugout, giving them the chance to vote for their starting lineup each week, with players who receive most votes starting the game.

To keep fans up to date with player performance, the club post full replays, highlights, and stats from every match on their website.

There is also an element of fantasy football involved as managers are given points for their team selections, with a manager of the year to be crowned at the end of the season.

The club ply their trade in the Essex Alliance Premier League, the twelfth tier of English football, currently sitting in 3rd with a couple of games in hand on the teams above.

Sports Gazette spoke to chairman and founder Mark North to find out more about the club’s interesting origins.

In allowing fans to have a real say in the running of a real life football club, United London are going against the grain of modern football, a game which has lost it's grassroots connections with fans.

Mark said: “[Football clubs] are talking about fan engagement at the moment but really what they’re looking at there is how can they engage fans to buy more and spend more. What are fans spending habits? What are they doing on match days? How can we then best position ourselves to sell more?

“What we’re looking to do is fan empowerment. It’s taking that to another level, putting fans in the dugout. That’s really what we want to try and do.”

Founding the club was a long process, and one that threw up a few obstacles for Mark and his team to overcome.

“A big obstacle funnily enough was with the FA. When I came up with the name United London FC, they said ‘we’re not accepting any teams with the name United at the front, or any with London in.’ That scuppered my name a bit!

“But luckily when I told them what we were looking to do, to put eyeballs on grassroots because it’s very hard to do that as everything’s about the Premier League, I think they really bought into it,” he added.

The club looked at over 250 players before settling on their first squad, and the publicity they can give players is a big draw to those looking to live out the Jamie Vardy fairytale.

“Because it’s going on YouTube and it’s got a few big people looking at it, you can get a bit more exposure here,” said fan favourite and winger Jermeel Jno-Baptiste.

Despite only being set up this year, the club already have more than 2,500 fan managers from several different countries.

With their first season going so well, Mark has lofty ambitions for the future of United London.

He said: “I think we could take it as far as doing the AFC Wimbledon. I don’t see any reason why we can’t get a fan engagement club in the UK and push them into the leagues.

But we’ve also got bigger plans than that. Internationally we want to set up United Paris FC with the same concept, or United Tokyo FC. If we could set up ten city-based clubs, we could have a city vs. city World Cup. I think that could be really interesting for fans around the world as well."

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