Louis Tomlinson is milking One Direction's fans to finance his football hobby

Think of all the charities that could have been helped with the money being 'crowdfunded' for Doncaster Rovers

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The Independent Online

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?

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.