With over 1 million subscribers, COPA90 has become the home of football culture. Travelling the planet to tell the story of football through the fans, they have, as they say themselves, been welcomed into people’s homes, bars, and stadiums, making films that celebrate the greatest game on Earth. They sat down with Póg Mo Goal.
How was Copa90 created?
Copa90 started in 2012, and was born out of a Google initiative to create a series of YouTube channels making quality original content. As we’ve got to know our audience, we’ve gone from making more viral-style content, to following major tournaments from the fans’ perspective, and creating the films which we’ve become known for – longer form documentaries about supporter culture that focus on why football really matters on a deep level. We want to show that this is a world game, and give people a reason to unite under their identity as football fans
Copa90 is made up of filmmakers, social content creators and people with a more traditional media background. We’re constantly evolving, and our staff reflect that. We come from all over, speak more than 10 languages in our offices, and maintaining that kind of environment is crucial to bringing a diverse and unique look to our football content.
You’ve covered the biggest teams and tournaments from World Cups down to non-league. How do you decide what stories to tell?
We come up with our stories very collaboratively. Obviously we know that certain things have to get covered because the entire football world is interested, but for some of the smaller or more niche stories it’s about finding an engaging hook. We want to feed our audience what they want, whilst also bringing them stories that they otherwise would not have known about.
There are individuals on the Copa90 team who have more of an eye towards reactive social content, some who are more interested in fan activism, and others who are obsessed with active support. We put these ways of looking at football against each other, and collaborate to balance the greatest possible reach with a narrative that fits our philosophy; that football should be for the fans.
In recent years we have seen the ways in which people consume football dramatically change. Where do you see this evolution going?
With the world of smart phones, instant content, and blurry copyright laws around content that comes from fans at the game, we are constantly looking to push the boundaries. We see traditional media, where ex-players in suits analyse the game as increasingly antiquated. The more football becomes a globalised phenomenon, and people continue to have 2nd and 3rd clubs in other parts of the world, the more they will want to be able to form their own opinions through direct interaction with local fans. In the future we want to develop our network and audience, so that they become more than passive viewers, but rather are active storytellers of their local game.
The Derby Days films have toured the globe. What is the most enjoyable, least enjoyable and most dangerous derby?
The derbies are always a blast, although we have something of a Copa90 curse with many ending 0-0. The most enjoyable may have been Bohemians versus Shamrock Rovers in Dublin actually. We usually have great experiences with smaller clubs, who appreciate our coming out to tell their stories. This was also the case in Sarajevo. It really makes the difference when you feel like everyone is truly happy to have you. And of course we can’t leave out the Belgrade derby. Anyone at Copa90 who has been will tell you it’s as good as it gets. Most dangerous was probably the Rome derby. We never truly feel in danger, as we always have the agreement on the part of the local fan scene to come and film, however in Rome this was a bit more difficult to arrange. The match day environment was so intense and having our cameras around certainly didn’t help.
Fan involvement, whether helping to save a club like Real Oviedo or ticket price protests are a big focus. Can you see a future where these problems are addressed?
The only way these problems will get resolved is if fans can stand together and demand a resolution to these issues. We are seeing more and more messages of solidarity between fan groups at games, and it really feels like there is a growing movement. For Copa90, it’s about how we facilitate that movement, and be a platform to amplify the voice of those fans.
The way we see it, there are 4 major tenets that all fans can agree on that go beyond political ideology: 1. Fans should have the option to stand. 2. Ticket prices must be capped relative to local wages. 3. Fans should have some sort of stake in their club. 4. Fans should be treated equally in a court of law. There are no countries that follow all of these ideas. Germany and Sweden are the closest to it, but even there, fans are fighting for changes.
Do you see the rise of ‘punk football’ and the birth of clubs like FC United of Manchester as a reaction against the commercialism of football? What can be done to save the soul of football?
Fan ownership is a natural step for football clubs. Supporting something you have a direct stake in makes you more committed, more passionate, and you take better care of it. Since Germany and Sweden have adopted the 50+1 rule, you see more and more fan owned clubs popping up all over the world. Sandlanders FC are a collective of clubs in Africa, Wellington Phoenix in New Zealand, Ancona, Poli Timosoara, and Austria Salzburg in Italy, Romania, and Austria. It’s unlikely that all clubs will move in this direction, but so long as they exist and continue popping up, the soul of football will remain very much alive.
Travelling the world has given you a first hand view of the growth of the game in places like Australia and the US. Are you excited to see how football is developing in these countries?
The rise of fan culture has been unbelievable in both countries. Our partner channel KICK TV is based in the US, and we are constantly blown away by some of the scenes they capture at MLS games, but even more so at the lower league level. Clubs like Nashville FC (which is fan owned) or Detroit City which get great attendances in the 3rd/4th division equivalent. That is truly exciting to see. In Australia, we have a particularly great insight as Eli, our host is from Melbourne. He has really given us some amazing perspective on how football is growing out there, and we are thrilled to see what the future holds. As football breaks into these big markets, brands are doing most of the development, and the fan culture is following. Traditionally it’s been fans who develop a club and brands then come in and take it over. This makes the rise of active support all the more important in Australia and the US, as it’s what makes the sport legitimate and genuine.
Can you give us some background on the Copa Collective?
The Copa Collective began just over a year ago. We kept getting inspired by the remarkable work of independent football magazines, fan rights organisations, and unique blogs who all believe, as we do, that fans should lie at the heart of the game. When we see a football story come out in one country, it may be told completely differently in another. Through the Collective, we can bring together international perspectives on events in football and broaden the understanding of our viewers. The Copa Collective is not just a network for us to source from smaller publishers, it is a space where we are able to bring together some of the most innovative minds in football and fan culture, and open up a dialogue between them.
What have you seen that shows how football around the globe brings fans together from the smallest to the largest clubs?
It’s the rituals we all share. The pre-match traditions, the corteo to a game, singing, chants, raising our arms, jumping in unison, the emotion of a goal. These exist for every active fan. And let’s also acknowledge, despite everything wrong with the highest level of the game, every football fan follows it. Even if it’s a guilty pleasure. Whether you are on a bus to a non-league game, or taking the escalator to your seat at the Etihad, you will talk about that Messi dribble, or the Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick.
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