Skip to content

Hampton’s Record Breaking Football Club Owners: Four Years on

By Josh Hood

Football is a sport that captivates the hearts of millions around the world. From children playing in the streets to professional athletes competing in international tournaments, it has the power to unite and inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. For Calogero Scannella and his six fellow Old Hamptonians, their passion for the game has led them down a path that they never expected. Just 4 years ago, the young entrepreneurs had finished their time at Hampton, and decided to purchase struggling 10th tier side, Walton and Hersham FC. In spite of some unexpected and frankly unprecedented obstacles they have had to overcome, the club currently stand first in the league and look to show no signs of slowing down in their pursuit for three consecutive promotions.

After leaving school, Scannella spent some time studying Economics and Finance at the University of Surrey. Whilst having learned a lot, he commented that unfortunately, the course bore little resemblance to his monetary responsibilities within a footballing framework. In fact, it was this lack of prior knowledge and consequent necessity for improvisation that he found most challenging about his role. “Whatever problem comes your way, you just have to learn it, learn what it’s about, learn a new skill and overcome it.” 

Needless to say, Scannella’s responsibilities within the club extend beyond those of a financial nature. “Whether it be money, football, fan, media or law related,” another significant challenge of his role is certainly present within the breadth of matters he has to deal with. Whilst you could be forgiven for succumbing to the extraordinary pressure of such a full-on job, Scannella and his co-owners have certainly not. To mention just a few, Walton and Hersham FC have since their new ownership: boosted an average match day attendance from 40 to 400 people, hosted 1,100 fans in an FA Cup qualifying match against Chatham Town and gained back-to-back promotions in their 2020/21 and 2021/22 campaigns. 

Scannella pictured watching a game

Scannella also identified “the growth of (their) crowds and media” as a prominent achievement for the club, alongside the fact that they currently sit “top in their newly promoted division, against well established teams”. Their success becomes even more astounding when you consider that, although the Guinness Book of World Records never officially recognised it as Walton and Hersham FC are not a professional club, they entered the role as the youngest football club owners in the world.

The side’s recent success can, of course, not be attributed to a sole cause. In fact, Scannella remarked that the “joint drive of everyone involved” is a contributing factor. He elaborated by adding that “Everyone is willing to go above and beyond to keep it rolling”. Whether it be putting flyers around town at midnight or early rises to negotiate a sponsorship deal, they seem to have cultivated a genuinely energetic, proactive and forward thinking atmosphere since the takeover. “You will never know if something works unless you try it”.

One of the club’s most distinguishing and well-renowned features is undoubtedly their social media presence. The journey began in early 2020, when a parent at Hampton asked to attend a game and film a bite-sized 90 minute documentary, which ended up being very well received. A few months later came the onset of lockdown and subsequent lack of anything to do for the owners. They decided to post small clips of the footage, the first few of which received over 950k views, and content of a different nature followed.

Having got a sense for the evident public interest in a Walton and Hersham TikTok account, the concept properly kicked off the season after. Sartej Tucker (fellow Old Hamptonian) came up with the idea for a match day vlog and once again, upon receiving resounding success, it was followed up on by the owners. Now, 3 years on, match day vlogs are uploaded after every game, the footage of which is obtained by a professional filming company. The TikTok account boasts over one million followers – the most of any non-professional team, seeing off competing high-profile club owners, including those of Wrexham AFC.

In spite of the “odd ridicule from opposition fans”, Walton and Hersham have provided a perfect example of the benefits of social media usage. Looking to bring exposure and create a brand for the side, Scannella explained that “it becomes a more appealing club for people to look at; an exciting project”. In terms of next season, they are looking to develop their merchandise as a means of further spreading the club’s image and allowing fans who live abroad to develop a deeper connection with proceedings. He summarised that they have “a lot of things in the pipeline to move and use the platform that (they’ve) built”.

Though his job may seem glamorous, Scannella was keen to get across that being responsible for an established football club such as Walton and Hersham FC is far from straight forward. From the outset, the young owners had to make the difficult decision of changing their management staff. Scannella iterated the importance of “growing the football club and growing the community just as much as winning football matches” as an objective for their chosen appointment, which has certainly been fulfilled so far. It is often easy to get caught get up with the here and the now in terms of results, but seeing the bigger picture and supporting the “long term sustainability” are equally as crucial according to the 22 year old.

Walton and Hersham players applauding the fans

In the way of advice he would give to someone trying to follow a similar path, Calogero replied, “Don’t”. Often receiving comments regarding how jealous or surprised people are with the attractiveness of his role, he explained that there is more to the “really fun and cool appearance”. It’s unfortunately not as easy as “clocking into work at 9, and out of work at 6 everyday”. Ranging from getting a text at 11pm that a player wants to leave, or an early morning transfer swoop for your star striker, his job description would show no mention of being stress-free.

As with any business, the significance of relationships and connections cannot be overstated. The Old Hamptonians are in full recognition of this, and aside from gaining commercial success on the back of impressive sponsorship deals, they are also linked with the junior club – Walton and Hersham United FC. Although the relationship has not been without difficulty as no junior player has yet been able to make the jump to senior football, it’s something they “are definitely making strides towards improving”. 

Expanding on this, Calogero reflected upon the loan spell of a 19 year old Colombian international that they signed from Fulham on deadline day. Aside from “leaving for international duty with the U21s twice”, there were also occasions on which be was unable to play due to the physical nature of the league. During a visit to Chertsey Town, “the manager couldn’t start him because the style of football that Chertsey had was suited to a man”. A relationship that particularly appeals to the owners however has not yet been explored. Scannella expressed a clear desire for future contact with Hampton, whether it be through the form of delivering an assembly or encouraging pupils to come and support on a match day. 

Looking ahead to the future, Calogero and his co-owners show no lack of enthusiasm and optimism regarding their continued involvement in the club. He spoke of the team’s aspiration to reach the National South Division within 5 years, at which point they “will reach (their) first ceiling of competing with full time clubs”.

Having already attended over 130 games, in spite of two seasons being heavily impacted by COVID, it’s no secret that the owners share a deep-rooted passion for the game. When asked about his favourite part of the job, Scannella replied, “Everything. Non league football is so much more engaging for people, so much better in terms of the overall experience. Not only can you speak to the players, the players to the fans and idea of a community is there; it’s also the fact that we keep building it that’s even better.”

As spectators, it’s exciting to see what this dynamic group of individuals will accomplish next in the world of football. Their story serves as a reminder that anything is possible if you take initiative and are willing to put in the effort. With their innovative approach and fresh perspective, the Old Hamptonians have breathed new life into a football club, revitalizing the local community and inspiring a new generation of fans.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: