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Hashtag United, Wimbly Womblys and the virtual gamers striking it rich

In the latest in our series on the future of sport, we look at those who are changing the way we consume football – from the YouTube team with 2m fans to the clubs with squads of e-footballers

In a scruffy prefab at West Ham United’s training ground a bunch of unlikely lads are being primped and primed for a glamorous photo shoot. They are trying out three new kits, sponsored by Umbro, in preparation for a tour of the US. Midfielder James Stevens has lost around 50lb over the past year – he’s only 17 stone now.

Skinny balding winger Faisal Manji, who works as an investment adviser, has become something of a sex symbol in recent months. Faisal and James play for a team called Hashtag United, which is basically a bunch of old schoolmates, some of whom couldn’t get in their local Sunday League teams, with a few luxury add-ons (two ageing semi-professionals).

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