This article originally appeared in Future Sport magazine. Click here to read the 2020 edition.

You’ve probably heard or seen them bouncing around the internet. They’ve got a camera, big opinions and adore their football club.

Love or loathe them, fan channels are very much part of the landscape in modern football. With a potential audience of millions around the world, their opinions and soundbites travel far and wide and can often shape the conversation around a club. It’s the media but not as we know it, with fan TV now the go-to place for many fans ahead of traditional media outlets for club news and opinion.

Manchester United fans flock to FullTimeDEVILS; Arsenal Fan TV (AFTV) keeps the red side of North London entertained, while Liverpool fans hang-on to the thoughts of The Redmen TV. Between them they have nearly two million subscribers on YouTube, let alone Twitter and Facebook.

Where once it was fans interviewing fans, now these channels are gaining access to club legends past and present. In recent years Redmen have sat down with the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Jamie Carragher and Future Sport cover star Steven Gerrard. Even the clubs themselves are starting to recognise the influence these channels and their hosts possess. Low budget, single camera interviews have given way to polished, mainstream media-style coverage.

YouTube video

To find out more about the fan TV phenomenon, Future Sport travelled to a business park on the edge of Liverpool to speak with Redmen founder and presenter Paul Machin. In a studio plastered in Liverpool memorabilia, Paul said: “The rise of fan-owned channels is largely down to the increased interest in the sport; with 24-hour news cycles like Sky Sports News, football has now become central to everyone’s lives.”

He continued: “When we started The Redmen TV, in the mainstream you had people talking about Liverpool who didn’t understand Liverpool – that’s really annoying. When footballers who don’t watch the games are trying to pass opinion off as fact, it is very, very annoying.”

Launched in 2007, Redmen claims to be the original fan TV channel, utilising social media in a way football fans never had before. Now, with most clubs having at least one fan-led channel to praise and lambast differing fortunes on the pitch, the conversation is changing. Clubs are now more media-savvy than ever, employing large teams to deal with a growing media presence. It is, however, increasingly rare for them to discuss negativity if results are going badly. This is where the fans come in.

“There was a space for hours upon hours of content and coverage that wasn’t being given the time of day on Sky Sports or Match of the Day”, Paul says. “The role that fan TV plays is that it allows us to have those conversations that are being had in the real world, but aren’t being covered anywhere else.”

UCFB graduate Ross Chandley worked at Redmen during his degree, and is now their Head of Marketing and Social Media.

An ever growing presence means individuals with proven multimedia skills are needed to run these channels. UCFB graduate Ross Chandley worked at Redmen during his degree, and is now their Head of Marketing and Social Media. Regularly seen on screen with Paul discussing everything from transfers to results to kit deals, Ross has landed his dream role – talking about Liverpool.

“When I first started I wanted them to be separate entities”, he explains. “I didn’t want to mix my passion and love for the football club with my job because if I didn’t like my job then I would like Liverpool and vice versa, but it’s turned out to be quite the opposite.”

Ross added: “I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been here for two years and in that time we’ve reached two Champions League finals and won one of them. It’s been a learning curve but you get the highs, the lows and reactions of fans and you really need to know how to deal with them, but with the football club doing well on the pitch it definitely makes our job a lot easier!”