How Four French Designers Aim to Create the Ultimate Online Soccer Almanac
Football Inclusive wants to be larger and deeper than any online soccer database. Will fans embrace it?
Imagine it's Thursday, June 16, 2016, sometime after 9 AM if you're on the East Coast. You're at home on your couch, having called in sick, but you're not really sick. You just wanted to watch England play Wales in the group stage of the European Championships, like most everyone else on earth. Now, imagine someone you've never heard of—say, a Welsh player named Emyr Huws—scores.
Who the fuck is Emyr Huws? you wonder. You pull out your phone and punch in his name (which you misspell and Google autocorrects, obviously). In the results, you see a website you've never heard of called Football Inclusive. You ignore Wikipedia and click that instead.
Up pops a slick web page with all the biographical information you'd expect from Wikipedia: Huws is 22; was born in Llanelli, Wales; is 5'10''; and spent last year on loan from Wigan at Huddersfield Town in the English Championship, where he scored a handful of goals.
Like Wikipedia, the website shows all of the goals he's scored in all competitions throughout his young career. But here's where things get interesting. Unlike Wikipedia, this website allows you to click on the individual goals. When you do, it whisks you to another page, where you find a video of the actual goal. Beside the video, there's a link to the match in which the goal was scored. Click. You're now on a new page full of statistics about the match: shots, lineups, possessions, tackles, even what shoes the players wore. There's a match report as well, and photos from fans taken during the match. You click another link, and realize you have access to every Huddersfield Town match played in the past 100 years. You click Huddersfield Town - Leicester, 1910. You find information about the lineups, the goal scorers. There's even a crude photograph from inside the stadium.
If all goes to plan, the above scenario—a cannonball into a bottomless pool of global soccer history—will be reality by the time Euro 2016 kicks off in June. That's what Julien Veillon and Jonathan Candan say, anyway. They're two of the four founders of Football Inclusive, an all-inclusive (get it?) soccer portal that is being Kickstarted right now. Like Wikipedia, it will be edited by fans and experts, with the goal of offering a more immersive and historically rich look at the beautiful game than has ever existed.
Both Veillon and Candan are veterans of Paris advertising agencies, hence their website's beautiful design and the Kickstarter's well-honed pitch. They're also serious Paris St. Germain fans. About seven years ago, the two friends started a Facebook group dedicated to their team. They invited exactly 300 other PSG diehards to the group and closed it to the public.
What happened next was unexpected. "Those people started to get together and stuff, and it started to get a bit crazy," says Veillon. "We had some important dudes, some fanatics who had great jobs, important positions, but at night were just going crazy about Paris St. Germain."
Sometimes they'd host get-togethers with former PSG players. Sometimes they'd party. But their meetings, which would happen as frequently as two or three times a week, always revolved around their love of soccer, its history, its depth.
As time went on and the group became close, they began to lament the fact that, in Veillon's words, there was "no place for fans on the internet. The media talks about the match—writers and journalists—but there isn't any place for fans."
How could they recreate their group of 300, digitally? How could they make the experiences they have together accessible for everyone?
The idea for Football Inclusive came to Candan about two years ago. A year later, after raising a bit of money from their network, Candan, Veillon, and two other partners began to work on the platform itself. The Kickstarter, which just launched, is a way for them to raise a bit of money and spread the word about the project. Veillon seemed confident that it would move forward regardless of whether they met their $60,000 target.
"We're not going to lie," says Veillon. "We wanted a bit of cash so that we have enough to hire more people. But we really enjoy doing the posters, which you see on the Kickstarter.
"We just thought, what the hell, let's sell them on Kickstarter and give something cool [to the fans]."
Outside the crowdfunding site, the project will be financed through strategic partnerships, premium subscriptions, and advertising. According to Candan and Veillon, they've already received a number of offers from potential sponsors, all of which have been unsolicited and, in one case, almost comically unexpected.
"There has been almost like a state, like a country, like an official country," Veillon says. He laughs for a moment.
"Like a country's football association?" I ask.
"An official country wanted to invest in the project—like a prime minister. Maybe they want to use football for their image. It makes sense in a way—in a weird way, in a very indirect way. Also we had a more traditional media group [wanting to invest]. It was very flattering, but we really want to focus on [the project, where fans can] spend hours vibrating on football all the time. So we're very humble about this. We want to make it work for the fans first."
The project is currently in a closed beta. It's scheduled to launch in June, at which point it should have some of Europe's largest club competitions accessible back through the 1980s. If it is as slick, deep, and easy to navigate as it looks in the preview, it could add something to the beautiful game: unprecedented historical and statistical depth.