Introducing ‘Behind The @’, a feature dedicated to finding out more about some of social media’s sporting profiles. From popular Twitter accounts to YouTube superstars, we want to know more about the people behind the @ – the ones running the accounts that so many fans appreciate on a daily basis worldwide.
In this edition, we spoke to @Footie_Writer, a freelance digital football journalist, multi-award-nominated profile with a focus on transfer news and social media influencer with over a million followers in football and entertainment.
RealSport: What made you decide to focus exclusively on transfer activity?
Footie Writer: Honestly, I sort of fell into the transfer ‘industry’ by chance. As some people will know my background is in content writing. I’ve been drafting web content since 2008. Initially, when I didn’t have any sort of experience or profile at all I’d work with editors drafting football content, mostly player profiles for free. In return for drafting content we’d talk about transfer news they had heard from other writers and in press conferences. The information was generally very reliable, and hence I picked up a reputation as somebody that knew more about transfers than others.
RS: When did you realise that you had a large online influence?
FW: There was a summer, I think it might have been 13/14 when my following rocketed by about 1,000 followers a day for almost every day the transfer market was open. I went from about 40,000 followers to around 100,000. That’s when I started to noticed that people actually wanted to listen, although that sounds strange as 40,000 is hardly a small number to begin with.
RS: Your Twitter account is hugely popular, but then you also have a website and YouTube channel. Can you explain the Footie Writer movement for those that don’t know?
FW: Footie Writer started as my identity. It remains that way somewhat to this day. However, naturally I’m branching out. I’ve always found YouTube fascinating as it’s a way one can give an un-edited opinion on anything legal! It’s no secret that video content is more popular now than ever before and its popularity is still growing, so that was just a natural progression for me. My website – www.footiewriter.com – is a portal for brand new and untarnished writers to showcase their ability to a larger audience that they simply would not have access to through their Twitter.
RS: We gather your aim is to be an alternative to bigger sites. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
FW: In order to write for a website that receives a similar number of views to footiewriter.com, one has to have extensive experience, a background in writing, qualifications, the time to meet strict deadlines, and a long list of references, and that is just to get an internship or a trial. To write for footiewriter.com all that is required is an informed opinion and good English skills. There’s no pressure to post and the work published reaches a good-sized audience.
RS: You’ve been nominated for a few awards – how did it feel to be nominated?
FW: @FootieWriter was nominated for The Best Social Football Account at the Football Blogging Awards in 2014. Unfortunately, I missed the cut in 2015, but I was delighted to be nominated amongst some huge names in the industry. However, recently, I received an email detailing what feel is currently my biggest working accomplishment to date. The Sport Industry Next Gen awards (in association with Barclays) emailed me to say that I had made their shortlist of the 28 people who they feel are the next generation of leaders in sport. I’m still over the moon about it. The list of judges is extraordinary: Sir Keith Mills, Alastair Campbell, Maggie Alphonsi, among others.
Furthermore, the job titles of the other 27 nominees I’m up against is proof just how much of an accomplishment it is to be nominated: Head of Marketing (ESPN), Partnership Development Manager (Liverpool Football Club), Senior Strategy Manager (Sky), Head of Sport and Digital (ITN), that’s not even scratching the surface. Then, at the bottom, little old @FootieWriter.
RS: Have you ever been the first to break a transfer that nobody else knew about?
FW: Yes, but only four times in three years: Drogba back to Chelsea; Walcott’s new contract; Fabregas on his way out of Barcelona; and Jovetic to City. As people will know if they follow my account, my news is mostly about proving or disproving what is already in the media. That sounds strange, but with the amount of rumours that are flying about constantly it’s not an easy job. The likelihood is that before a transfer even became a possibility somebody in the media put two and two together. That’s why you should never trust accounts who break multiple exclusives all the time, it simply isn’t possible.
RS: Tell us about a time where your tweet did something you didn’t expect (e.g. reached someone famous, evoked a crazy response) etc.
FW: One time, I had the audacity to call out Ben Smith from the BBC. I was just a lowly writer, and he was the all-powerful, untouchable source of all knowledge… Well, he claimed that Chelsea had bid £10m for Wayne Rooney plus Luiz and Mata for the player. I told him that absolutely wasn’t the case and he said; “@FootieWriter, or whatever your name is, stop embarassing [sic] yourself. Story is correct. 100% correct. You’re 100% wrong. Troll someone else.” Well, I told him I took issue with him telling me that I should stop embarrassing (that’s how you spell it) myself and that I was trolling him. I wasn’t aggressive in the way I said it, just simply questioned where he got the story from. He instantly dismissed me and no more than twenty minutes later the story was widely discredited, first by Chelsea then by other members of the press and ultimately (although Luiz and Mata would leave) that move never happened.
There are plenty of other stories. For example, back and forward ‘debates’ with Joey Barton, which led him to call me out then subsequently bail on his own interview request, and some interesting talks with Piers Morgan, but that’s always the one that sticks out to me.
RS: Where do you think the future of your account lies? Strictly on Twitter? Or do you want to pursue other avenues, e.g. punditry, journalism, introducing your own product range?
FW: Ever since the day I started on Twitter I’ve always been looking for ways to expand. I’ll always be known as @FootieWriter the transfer guy on Twitter, which is fine. However, I’m also a fully accredited football journalist, I have a successful content company, I have the FootieWriter website and Youtube channel, and over 20 other social media accounts with a total of 1 million followers, which takes up a lot of my time. However, as we speak, I have a number of things lined up with some of the biggest businesses in the country. Every day is an adventure, albeit a tiring one!
You can follow Footie Writer here.
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