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Jamie Hendrie writes about AwayDays, a vlog about groundhopping, and one you really should be following!
Ellis Platten is an extraordinary and very talented young man. A familiar face in footballing circles on YouTube, Ellis has been riding the crest of a wave that shows no signs of slowing down. His Groundhopping vlogs that appear on YouTube Channel AwayDays are proving to be essential late night Saturday viewing. The growth of his AwayDays Channel has been truly inspirational.
In August 2014, baby faced Ellis appeared on YouTube to shyly announce the birth of new football channel AwayDays. His goal back then was to simply get 100 subscribers and even that seemed ambitious for the modest host. In under two years, AwayDays has gained over 6000 subscribers and goes from strength to strength with a loyal following on Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
Armed with just a camera, Ellis and his friend (usually Ben) visit a different ground every Saturday and record their match day experiences. We are living in an era where mainstream football can appear to be dehumanising fans by calling them “customers”, and when rogue owners are destroying the likes of Charlton Athletic and Blackpool, AwayDays brings us all back to earth and reminds us of all the elements of football we fell in love with. We see two best friends in love with the game of football, sharing banter, grading the half time pies, enjoying the match day atmosphere (and In Ben’s case even ranking the car parks!). They are true football fanatics and they present their experiences in an honest and straightforward manner and we lap it up and enjoy their quirks. The subplots on AwayDays are interesting too: like will Ellis finally buy himself a warm coat? Will Ben ever get a score prediction correct? Will Norwich fans ever sing anything other than “on the ball City?”…
So how did two young fans – Ellis who supports Leeds and Ben who follows Liverpool – decide to spend every bit of spare cash on their AwayDays channel. Ellis explains: “I have always had a passion for football, and watching live football is the best way to experience the game. I’m a Leeds United fan based in Norfolk and it’s impossible to get to watch Leeds, so I decided instead to watch football every week in a different way“.
The love of watching live football has seen Ellis vlog from places as diverse as non league clubs like Biggleswade United, Ebbsfleet Town and Dulwich United to Premier League grounds like Villa Park and Carrow Road to Wembley and even recently Orlando City SC. It ws an experience that Ellis thoroughly enjoyed “It was immense, the MLS is something I personally love. I want to go global to watch Football for sure, so many games I want to see, so little funding and backing..“. The success of AwayDays has attracted some interest from the wider media world, but proposals to change the channel would “sap away the soul” and is not something Ellis wants to succumb to.
Central to the key of Awaydays is the friendship between Ellis and Ben. One of the most enduring aspects of the Channel is the laughter and banter they both share together..like that moment when your friend points a camera at you when you have a mouthful of sandwich or mocks your score predictions. There is never any malice either; these aren’t two lads who are looking to fight, bully, ridicule or taunt others. Ellis claims that AwayDays couldn’t exist without Ben – “Without Ben, I doubt that AwayDays would have ever grown to this point, nor would it still be a thing. He’s key to the channel at the moment and without him it wouldn’t be anywhere near the same. Saturday is the best day of the week for me personally. Nothing else comes close“.
The technical elements involved in AwayDays are fairly straightforward. Ellis says “I’m lucky enough to have found a fantastic graphic, motion designer through twitter and he helped me out, the channel wouldn’t be where it is today without him. I literally just use a camera and a laptop, it’s time consuming during the day, but in terms of equipment, it’s not hard in all honesty. Just a camera and a laptop, something to edit on, a will to do it and you’re set“.
Choosing which matches to attend often depends on finance, but Ellis and Ben do look at all the suggestions they are given via YouTube comments. One quick glimpse at those comments sees a huge amount of “come Portsmouth..come to Wycombe..Please come to Walsall..” etc. But wherever the lads end up, Ellis has one rule – they must enjoy themselves. “Me and Ben or whoever comes with us, need to enjoy the day as well. If we went to games we didn’t really want to, just to please the audience then we may up hindering that which wouldn’t be ideal and would take some passion away. I think the balance we have now is perfect“.
Ellis was hugely inspired by blogger and groundhopper Matthew Harrison “Matt was definitely an inspiration to me. His blog is so succesful and it is thoroughly deserved“. And in turn, Ellis is now influencing a new crop of Groundhopping Vloggers. It’s not hard to see why some people may be attracted to the thrills of groundhopping. Dirty Leeds Blogger Lewis Middleton was so impressed by the AwayDays Channel that he has temporarily stopped vlogging his beloved Leeds United and is concentrating instead on visiting non-league grounds. And there is also a dissatisfaction at play. Lewis claimed on his Channel that there was a certain disconnect between him and his club, which is now ever more evident in English football. All seater stadiums, “new” fans who try and shush any sign of atmosphere, heavy handed stewarding, changing kick off times for television, owners that don’t listen to fans, players more content with picking up their wages than playing for the shirt they represent..it’s all contributing to a soulless and toxic atmosphere at some clubs and is moving fans towards the non-leagues where the soul of football can be found.
For Ellis Platten, he is flattered by the approach taken by Lewis Middleton and wants to see more Groundhopping channels start: “It’s fantastic! I hope that if my channel continues to grow, then more and more will pop up. Maybe we can inspire others to do it and if they can go at it in a unique way, like Lewis is doing is now which is different to us then that’s great“.
There’s a great moment on an AwayDays video when you see and hear a lot of “shushing” followed by a young man in the crowd chanting out:
Hey you, don’t watch that – Watch this! – This is the heavy heavy monster sound – The Nuttiest sound around – so if you’ve come in off the street – and you’re begining to feel the heat – well listen Buster – You’d better start to move your feet – to the rockin’est, rock steady beat of Madness – One Step beyond!
Followed by hundreds of lads bouncing along to “One Step Beyond” by Madness. It’s one of those joyous and spontaneous moments at a football match that lifts the spirits, regardless of the result!
The overall mood on Awaydays is light, pleasant and humorous. The Videos appeal to all ages but especially seem popular with the 18-24 age age demographic. But occasionally Ellis uses the platform to speak out against issues such as homophobia and sexism. Discrimination is an issue that he feels very passionate about: “I believe that everyone is equal – be it everyday life, football matches..It is depressing that people chant “get your tits out for the lads” in 2016. It’s a deep problem and I wont be the one to stop it. But I hope that my words speaking against discrimination do make people re-think their behaviour“. His responsible stance on these issues have resonated deeply with his loyal fanbase too. Many people have supported his views for equality which shows that attitudes are slowly changing.
Ellis believes that part of the success of AwayDays has been the connection made outside of the mainstream: “Every bit of growth still amazes me, especially as non-league football is at the epicentre of it all, and 99% of other YouTube Channels focus on the big clubs and competions as it’s easier to generate views from them. It’s exciting to think it could grow more, but it’s also daunting in a way!”.
There is an unblemished charm about Ellis Platten, a charisma and an ability to communicate well with other people. It’s hard to believe now that he was rather shy when he started taking his camera out to matches: “I had to get used to talking in front of a camera which is a weird concept for sure. If I hadn’t have started AwayDays then I would never have grasped it until later in life“. The support of his family has also been important to Ellis – “My family are great, my Dad, Mum and Grandad especially, they get that this is what I want to do with my life and allow me to go for it, which is all I could ask for really. I hope I can re-pay their faith in the long run, if I haven’t already!”. The dream for Ellis is a career in broadcasting and it’s easy to imagine him being a success in anything he put his mind too. “I want to get involved in sports broadcasting in some way, shape or form. Non-League is fantastic, it’s my favourite form of the game. The dream would be reporting on Non-League, although I get that opportunities to do so would be much more limited“.
For now though, Ellis is focussing solely on AwayDays and is very aware of the changeable nature of YouTube – “One collaboration or the right person clicking on one of my videos could cause the channel to skyrocket. I’m just planning for now I guess, 10,000 subscribers by October is an aim of mine, that’s as far as I’ve planned really!”. And Ellis is enjoying interacting regularly with his followers on all social media platforms and is amazed by the support he has received “It’s unreal to think that this many people are so interested in what we do. Sometimes I get upset or frustrated with things and just remember how cool it is to have the number of people we do watching the videos, it’s the best thing, it genuinely is“.
AwayDays in many ways is the perfect football channel. It is a heady mixture of travelogue, groundhopping, humour, atmosphere, food and friendship. It’s made by fans for fans and captures an innocence and a passion that will appeal to everyone who loves our national game. If Awaydays is the vehicle to greater success for Ellis Platten then it is something functional, popular and enduring. I am sure that the Channel will continue to grow – largely because increased popularity hasn’t led to power battles, big ego’s or risky changes in format. And I am sure that the longer term future for Ellis will be outstanding and I hope that it is. Football needs people like Platten and he has the talent and passion to engage with supporters and make a difference. And I am sure that as higher level football continues to treat its fans with contempt then those fans will look elswhere for their kicks and enjoyment. I can only see groundhopping becoming more and more prevalent in the coming years.
Awaydays can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/user/aysAwayd
Written by Jamie Hendrie