A millionaire has bought a mid-league football team. So far, so incredibly boring. But this is no ordinary millionaire – the new owner of Doncaster Rovers is One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson. If you don’t know who the floppy haired 22 year-old is, ask the nearest 14 year-old girl, and then cover your ears.
The deal was finalised earlier today, and was swiftly followed by the Tomlinson-fronted launch of the largest ever UK Crowdfunder campaign, which the aim of raising a cool £2million for the failing club, and a hashtag #FansUnited, that within minutes was the most trending topic on Twitter worldwide.
As ‘Donny’ fans go, there’s no doubting that Tomlinson is the real deal; earlier this year he even played for the team’s reserve side. "For me, this is all about the football, the community and restoring the excitement and desire to making Doncaster Rovers the most exciting club to play for in Yorkshire" he writes on the Crowdfunder website.
Of course, it’s rather admirable and sweet that Tomlinson is spending his royalties helping out his fading hometown team, rather than on the more predictable rounds of drugs and strippers. What fan doesn't dream of owning their chosen side? And frankly, what a ludicrously wealthy young pop star chooses to fritter his money on doesn’t really bother me - although it is worth considering whether there may have been causes more deserving of his millions.
But it’s not his spending habits I have a problem with. What I can’t get to grips with is the obvious manipulation of his vast – and I mean absolutely, mind-bogglingly vast – young fan base to help financially prop up a failing club. This is a football team, remember, that is now languishing in the dizzy heights of League One.
The One Direction phenomenon is hard to get your head around. Harry Styles, another 1D member, has said that his band is 'even bigger' than The Beatles, and he may well be right. They’re set to have the first ever $1 billion tour this year. They can sell out 80,000 capacity venues in hours. If one of the boys is spotted talking to a woman, she is inundated with death threats. How long do you think it will take to squeeze £2million out of the seething mass of impressionable young Directioners?
1D: Crazy things Directioners say
1D: Crazy things Directioners say
1/20 One Direction
'I'm so jealous of everyone that meets One Direction. Then again if I met Harry I would hyperventilate, suffocate and die so...' - @m_a_g_z_i_e
2/20 One Direction
'If I ever received a tweet from anyone in One Direction I'd literally die on the spot and I want my obituary and tombstone to blame them.' - @aurosan
3/20 One Direction
'When I die, I want the One Direction 'Talk Dirty to Me' video displayed at my funeral, on a screen projected over my casket, playing non stop, thank you.' - @zaynlikespayne
4/20 One Direction
'I cannot speak I want to write the word 'love' everywhere and tell everyone I love One Direction more than anything ever.' - @sneezeharrys
5/20 One Direction
'I'm in the 'I'm gonna die alone with 8 cats and my posters of One Direction don't breath near me or I'll punch you' mood.' - @nouisteenagers
6/20 One Direction
'HARRY. YOU ARE NOT A GOD DAMN MAN WHORE. YOU ARE A CUPCAKE. JESUS.' - @daddyslittlelou
7/20 One Direction
When 1D were on the cover of GQ magazine: 'The GQ pictures make me want to stab myself in the uterus!' - @ziallsafari
8/20 One Direction
'I hope that I die before any of the boys in One Direction does cause I will not be able to even move if they go before I do.' - @pokeniall
9/20 One Direction
Another GQ response read: 'Holy. C**p. The boys on the cover of GQ magazine. Someone shoot me. Push me off a cliff. Stab me!' - @wafaastalks
10/20 One Direction
'Person: Why do you love One Direction? Me: Why do you breathe? Person: If I didn't I'd die. Me: Exactly.' - @idrugsharry
11/20 One Direction
'Don't hate on Louis you f**king a******s or I will shove bleach into your a******s and pull out your eyes with a spork.' - @fxkinlouis
12/20 One Direction
'When are you in public and a One Direction song comes on and your kidneys rupture and then you die.' - @harryhasbooty
13/20 One Direction
'If One Direction were falling off a cliff and I could only save one then I'd shoot myself so we could all die and meet in heaven' - @austinrahone
14/20 One Direction
''One Direction is goin' to be the next to break up'. If you don't shut up I will break your neck and pray for you to die.' - @bubblegumniall
15/20 One Direction
'My friend doesn't like One Direction and I told her that if she said something rude on Twitter she would die.' - @flashing1D
16/20 One Direction
'Do you ever feel like you want to scream and cry and laugh and smile and die because of One Direction. Because same.' - @chenloves1d
17/20 One Direction
'When Niall cuddles someone or something and his cheeks do the thing I die.' - @daintyiero
18/20 One Direction
'My parents always say 'They're gonna die down' and 'You'll grow out of them'. No f**k you I'm getting One Direction tattooed across my face.' - @calumshoran
19/20 One Direction
'Dear One Direction, you stole my heart but that's okay. I like my boys like I like my tea - hot and British with some Irish creme.' - @torii_rakusx
20/20 One Direction
'Imagine Niall barging into the church and saying 'I OBJECT' to your marriage because he loves you.' - @niamhabitat
And let’s not forget that Tomlinson is part of the richest boy band in history. Alone, he is worth an estimated £14 million, and rising. If he was so eager to help the club, it wouldn’t have been much of a stretch to cough up the money himself, rather than ask love-struck teenagers, desperate for the attention of their idol, to donate their pocket money.
But of course it’s far easy to just plaster his grinning face all over a campaign page instead. A face that is, incidentally, strictly controlled by his management company. Tomlinson had actually tried to buy the football team on two separate occasions, but the deals had fallen through because of failed negotiations with his management over ownership of his image rights. Don’t think that this is just a story of a plucky young lad following an entrepreneurial dream – the higher echelons know exactly what they are doing: cynically mining his fans for cash. And who can blame them? The Doncaster Rovers usually expect around 100 supporters at a Keepmoat Stadium match. When Tomlinson was on the bench, 4,000 turned up.
Crowdfunder pages work by offering incentives for financial pledges. For £10 a thank-you video of Tomlinson is delivered straight to your inbox. For £200 you get the chance to be a mascot at a game, and meet Louis, ‘if he is there’. £12,000 buys you a dazzling ten minutes in his company. I wonder how many parents will be hiding their wallets tonight.