Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Michael Campbell and Footie Stories: The Non-League Twitter Spaces Hub

Posted on 25 February 2022 by Felipe Lima

Imagine not liking football? The many facets of the best game in the world provide people with hope, escapism and enjoyment. For Michael Campbell, the ups and downs of the beautiful game has given him a platform where he discusses the latest events, societal issues and engaging stories.

Michael is the host of the show #FootieStories which, every Wednesday and Sunday evenings, brings together different corners of the football world into an ever entertaining, highly humorous and sometimes serious platform.

Twitter Spaces

Twitter first launched Spaces in November 2020 in an attempt to compete with the success of up-and-coming social media platform Club House, thus creating their own version of the audio-centric chatrooms. These live audio conversations allow for open, authentic, and unfiltered discussions.

You can find a Space for just about any and every topic, from a small and intimate conversation to being amongst millions of listeners tuned into the same room.

Coinciding with the time Twitter rolled out the ability to host Spaces for all users, was a period in Michael’s life where he was looking for that next something.

“The idea came at the time that I was going through a job change. I spoke to my partner and I thought that it would be a good idea to talk to my circle of friends about Sunday league and non-league online.” he told the Sports Gazette.

“Originally, I tried it and no one came on. But then I had people DM me asking me to do it again, which was encouraging. Some people weren’t aware of how to use the Spaces feature on Twitter.”

“In the initial stages, there were a few of us in there but nothing major. All of a sudden, loads of people starting to request to come in. I remember scrolling down at one point and seeing over 500 people in our Space. A lot of blue ticks as well.”

Grabbing the opportunity

Social media platforms have become more geared towards user generated content. Spontaneity, viral content and the rapid growth accounts can experience, can make it feel like a snowball falling down a mountain.

Being an early adopter in the game is essential, but you must also be able to identify an opportunity to score and ‘put your best 11 out’.

“My partner helped me realise that there was something brewing here. People wanted to come, chat, listen, ask questions. It was then when I decided to create the #FootieStories hashtag, the Twitter and Instagram accounts,” he added.

“Within the first five days, it got over 1,000 followers. It was a crazy rollercoaster. Within non-league football you hear a lot of sides to the same story. With a place like #FootieStories people come and they know they can speak their truth in front of everyone.”

Michael Campbell in action

#FootieStories has become a hub where different stakeholders of the professional and semi-professional game come to discuss, engage and relate.

Coaches, players, fans, and owners all come forward to speak about the hot topic. With the retweet and sharing features of Twitter, the room grows organically and it only takes one account with a substantial following to engage for it to blow up.

“People want to hear from managers, club staff, chairmen, scouts. They want to hear about how things work and get an insight on it. The other day we had a chairman in there talking about the work that goes on behind the scenes. Where else do you get that?”

“My non-league circle of friends, semi-professionals and professionals are on Twitter and with that I have felt that it’s the perfect place to bring everyone together. I have also made good friends with pros who just come in listen and enjoy it.”

With the growth #FootieStories has experienced, it was only a matter of time for it to need to expand. Michael spoke about the brand and building a team, leading to co-host Mazza and ‘Admin’ coming onto the scene.

“Mazza first come about as being an engaging listener. As I mentioned, my partner and I first started it but things got to a point where we were growing and we needed help.”

“Mazza and his brother, who plays for Torquay United, Joe Felix, are known within the non-league community and I liked that Mazza could hold his own when talking, giving and receiving banter.”

“Our “admin” has also become a very integral part of the show. Regularly bringing the banter to the hosts and producing some brilliant content on show days.”

“In terms of growth, we now have got our own #FootieStoreies mugs, I plan on organising a #FootieStories football team, a video podcast. Lots on the cards.”

The hub of football discussions

#FootieStories has become a Space people tune into religiously, from different parts of the globe. It has a mostly fun and light-hearted atmosphere but it has also provided people with an opportunity to check in on one another and open up.

“It gives people a space. The other day we had someone talk from Australia and the guy got really emotional.”

“We talk about mental health and how people deal with it, how football has helped people in their lives and more. Things like that give me motivation to carry on with it.”

Michael and #FootieStories are becoming a sensation, being spoken about and becoming known around the leagues. With people involved in football at all levels, the Space and its hashtag has trended various times on Twitter.

“I’ve recently had someone on the pitch come and tell me that he was expecting to hear about a teammate that was having a bad game on #FootieStories. At that point I knew that this was becoming a platform.”

“The other night we did really well, it was the day that SE Dons played Baiteze. It was a huge Sunday league game, with over 2,000 people going to watch it. It even got covered on the big news outlets.”

“In our space that evening we had players from both teams come and talk and suddenly we had 1,000 people on the Space and we were trending in 2nd. We had trended in 7th and 8th before, but 2nd has been our highest.”

For this generation, football doesn’t exist without technology. Broadcasting, social media, VAR, NFT’s, robot assistant referees, it is all around us. However, if the people who love the game continue to create spaces like #FootieStories where fun, entertainment and positive conversations can be had, the essence will remain.

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