Historic, global and unique - why every modern football club should envy Corinthian Casuals FC
There is a club in the eighth tier of English football, playing in front of a few hundred supporters each week, who claim to possess the highest social media following of any amateur sports team in the world.
That may or may not be true.
But, then again, Corinthian FC are a very special team with a very special story.
Most of it was created long before the television age, let alone the digital and social era.
Their modern day shirts may be a gaudy clash of pink and brown but their story plays out in grainy black and white.
Yet they are re-telling it to another generation via digital.
Right now, Corinthian Casuals have 147,000 followers on Facebook, enough for a middle ranking team in The Championship. An incredible statistic.
And, more incredible still, 142,000 of those are in Brazil.
We need to go back to the 19th century to explain why.
Corinthian FC were formed by the Football Association in 1882 as a way to bring top players together regularly in the hope of improving an England side who, dash it all, had started losing to Scotland.
From the start, the new side represented the “amateur gentleman” ethos. They only played friendlies and respected the game with a passion. If awarded to them, penalties were deliberately missed. If they conceded a spot kick the keeper would stand aside. The referee enforced the laws of the game, they enforced the laws of a Gentleman. It was a higher calling altogether.
In those early years, they twice provided 11 players in the England team, a feat that has never been repeated. They inflicted the worst ever defeat on Manchester United, an 11-3 rout. It is still in the record books.
However, their principles brought them into conflict with the Football Association so they were barred from the possibility of competition in the rapidly developing FA Cup or League.
They became evangelists for the game, taking it around the world for the first time. They started off in South Africa but went to every Continent. They beat New York 18-0 and a fledging Real Madrid liked their pristine white shirts so much that they copied them. And, most significantly, a 1910 trip inspired the formation of the now mighty Corinthians in Sao Paulo, the extra S was a miscommunication.
One of their team invented the word “soccer”, an abbreviation of the association football and an alternative to rugby football, or rugger. They are the only club to have an official coat of arms instead of a badge.
Financial strife meant they merged with Casuals FC in mid-1939 and became Corinthian Casuals. It was agreed the Corinthians’ white shirts would be used for friendlies and Casuals pink and brown for competitive games.
As the professional game took hold of the English psyche, this strictly amateur team perhaps looked more and more like a relic of a bygone era or, even worse, a regular non-League club. They were now a different team, even penalties were contested.
However the Corinthian part of Corinthian Casuals has never been forgotten and, in 2015, they flew to Brazil to take on their namesakes in front of 50,000 fans. It is the third such trip, during a previous outing Socrates had ended up in pink and brown. This one was to complete the aborted excursion of 1914 when, while sailing over, First World War broke out. On hearing the news, the gentlemen did their duty, turned around and went back. No club would lose more players in the service of their country during that conflict.
The tour last year finally fulfilled those fixtures. A documentary recounting the trip will debut at Cannes later this year. They found the Brazilian connection intact. It has already been bringing a curious Corinthians fan or two to leafy Surbiton every other game. But they did not expect to find counterfeit pink and brown shirts being sold by street vendors.
Despite their size and place in the football pyramid, Corinthians Causals possess something major right holders are looking for – a differentiation narrative and a means of internationalisation. Big clubs are looking for a unique “brand” and method to monetise. Digital/social, mostly overseas, is the vehicle.
You really should not use the B word when talking about an organisation as sacred as Corinthian FC. But, given that the club needs funds, let’s pull it out. Unique history is part of the marketing message.
That's why Sheffield FC, the world’s first football team, have 42,000 fans on Facebook and 13,000 on Twitter. Not bad for a team in Northern Premier League Division One South, the eighth tier of English football.
However, they do not possess a developed international story.
Meanwhile, St Pauli are the 11th most followed team in Germany, sitting just above Mainz, who are in the Europa League. Of course, their culture is not congruent with monetisation via social media. But their “brand” (sorry about that) is strong enough to withstand only two seasons in the German top flight since the turn of the century.
The beauty of digital is that the story can take new levels with a new cadence. And it does not matter if you are in Surrey or Sao Paulo.
The 2015 tour grew their Facebook following from 10,000 to the current level. An agency based in South America is taking up the reigns soon and the film hopes to give them another injection of interest.
Goal graphics are already posted in Portuguese and, going forward, there will be translated articles and social posts.
They may average 120 fans for home games but their opportunities are limitless because the story has power, depth and social resonance.
Meanwhile, the cost of production on digital and social continues to plummet and cutting-edge skills are possessed by those just entering the labour market.
A tiny club with no money but a great story can reach the world and continue to spread its message. Especially one so worthy.
In many ways, the “Corinthian” spirit is the forerunner of Uefa’s Respect campaign. The merged club is now a competitive non-League club like any other but it retains its roots. The website still declares its primary aim to be promoting, “fair play and sportsmanship, to play competitive football at the highest level possible whilst remaining strictly amateur and retaining the ideals of the Corinthian and the Casuals Football Clubs.”
It has never been more important to promote such principles.
And digital is bringing them to a new audience.
* Got a comment? Let me know below or you can contact me here
- Jan 7, 2018 FC Global: Notes on the 179 football clubs with over 1m social media followers Jan 7, 2018
- Jan 1, 2018 What is your off-the-wall sports social media prediction for 2018? Jan 1, 2018
- Dec 31, 2017 My favourite social post by a football club in 2017 is.... Dec 31, 2017
- Nov 23, 2017 Football documentaries: fly-on-the-wall or fly in the ointment? Nov 23, 2017
- Nov 6, 2017 If content were really king then creators would be treated like royalty Nov 6, 2017
- Oct 5, 2017 The accidental experiment that proves media consumption is changing... and BT are terrible Oct 5, 2017
- Sep 22, 2017 How Ultimate Team cards helped the FIFA video game do a number on all-comers Sep 22, 2017
- Sep 18, 2017 The Overachievers: Yeovil Town - how signing a player in real life (and then on FIFA17) created the 'reveal' of the summer Sep 18, 2017
- Aug 30, 2017 So I 'Started With Why'... Aug 30, 2017
- Aug 26, 2017 Notoriety v Money - The C(l)ash of Styles in the Fight before the Fight Aug 26, 2017
- Aug 19, 2017 How one email lost a short-term customer but gained long-term trust Aug 19, 2017
- Aug 7, 2017 Europe's most followed players bask in the shadow of Barcelona and Real Madrid Aug 7, 2017
- Jul 23, 2017 Instagram, Leagues, SINA WEIBO and fairytales - ALL UP IN 2016/17 Jul 23, 2017
- Jul 15, 2017 EPL ✔︎, Europe ✔︎, USA ✔︎ - Now for 'Football Indonesia' Jul 15, 2017
- Jun 30, 2017 How McGregor is running rings around Mayweather on social media Jun 30, 2017
- Jun 19, 2017 Content lessons from a 10 year-old boy Jun 19, 2017
- May 31, 2017 27,000 in the stadium, 14m watching online - Lessons from Sidemen vs the YouTube AllStars May 31, 2017
- May 23, 2017 XFL v NFL, Packer v Cricket, Me v Mr Gowlett - taking on the establishment May 23, 2017
- May 8, 2017 WTF! Our CRM system is going through a VBC (very big change) May 8, 2017
- Apr 28, 2017 Joshua v Klitschko - the social media fight Apr 28, 2017
- Apr 5, 2017 What the IPL! Why is digital sport ignoring Indian T20 cricket? Apr 5, 2017
- Mar 18, 2017 Faster, higher, stronger imagery - @Olympics on Instagram Mar 18, 2017
- Mar 4, 2017 Best of Luck #Rapids96, remember to Keep Fighting Mar 4, 2017
- Mar 3, 2017 Storytelling, soccer and speaking at SXSW - part 2 Mar 3, 2017
- Feb 22, 2017 Why I love... Wolves' programme covers Feb 22, 2017
- Feb 7, 2017 Notes on how to reveal signings in the January transfer window - Euro edition Feb 7, 2017
- Feb 3, 2017 Why I love... Andrea Pirlo's fireball Feb 3, 2017
- Jan 31, 2017 The philosophical way to make digital sports content (or all creativity is theft) Jan 31, 2017
- Jan 18, 2017 SBI talk - the links Jan 18, 2017
- Jan 11, 2017 Cut Out, Cut Back or Reshape - Why your digital sport diet has to start TOO! Jan 11, 2017
- Jan 2, 2017 Digital Sport and SportsBiz Predictions 2017 — List of Lists Jan 2, 2017
- Dec 30, 2016 Sportsbiz and Digisport - list of lists for 2016 Dec 30, 2016
- Nov 26, 2016 Where is the sporting version of the Serial podcast? Nov 26, 2016
- Nov 20, 2016 How UFC is beating boxing to the punch Nov 20, 2016
- Oct 26, 2016 Is football (⚽️&🏈) under threat? Oct 26, 2016
- Oct 20, 2016 Historic, global and unique - why every modern football club should envy Corinthian Casuals FC Oct 20, 2016
- Oct 8, 2016 Trainspotting, unboxing videos and the lust for digital innovation in sport Oct 8, 2016
- Sep 29, 2016 Will Twitter and NFL both win Thursday Night Football games? Sep 29, 2016
- Sep 21, 2016 It’s how you play the game – digital, social and sports recruitment Sep 21, 2016
- Aug 30, 2016 “The Rio Olympics was a digital sport failure.” Discuss Aug 30, 2016
- Aug 27, 2016 Vote for my SXSW talk Aug 27, 2016
- Aug 8, 2016 Analysing the SkyBet Championship 2016/17 – who’ll win the digital title? Aug 8, 2016
- Jul 27, 2016 5 Digital Sport trends for SEAT Vegas Jul 27, 2016
- Jul 25, 2016 How Italy and Instagram won Euro2016 Jul 25, 2016
- Jul 11, 2016 Six key digisport trends for the 2016 Olympics in Rio Jul 11, 2016
- Jun 26, 2016 Best Digisport Moments from Euro2016 - Official Teams: Group Stages Jun 26, 2016
- Jun 15, 2016 The best digisport content from Euro2016 so far (non-official) Jun 15, 2016
- Jun 10, 2016 Best Digisport Moments From Euro 2016 - Pre-Tournament Jun 10, 2016
- Jun 6, 2016 Muhammad Ali - a Social Media genius before it even existed Jun 6, 2016
- May 9, 2016 Oil slick or oil tanker - who has the most engaging formula in motor sport? May 9, 2016
- Apr 25, 2016 The authentic > the aesthetic Apr 25, 2016
- Apr 13, 2016 When Life Gives You Lemons - The Digital Humanity Of James Taylor And Fabrice Muamba Apr 13, 2016
- Mar 26, 2016 Ronda Rousey, Vernon Davis, Sanya Richards-Ross And The Quest For Authenticity - Lessons From SXSports Mar 26, 2016
- Mar 2, 2016 Five #DigiSport 'Takeaways' from Sports Fan Engagement 2016 Mar 2, 2016
- February 2016