Big football clubs take on Facebook with new social media network

Dugout.com to offer exclusive content in partnership deal with 150 players and clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona

Almost two dozen of the world’s biggest football clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Juventus have joined forces to launch a new social media network that aims to replicate the success of Facebook for football fans.

Dugout.com, which has also signed partnerships with more than 150 players including Gareth Bale, Alexis Sanchez, Edinson Cavani, Joe Hart and Neymar, launches globally on Monday in eight languages.

The site, which has dedicated profile pages for each club and player partner, promises to offer exclusive content including behind-the-scenes videos and interviews.

“The game today is truly global and fans don’t just want to watch matches, they want to follow their favourite clubs and players across the world, on and off the pitch,” said Elliott Richardson, Dugout’s co-founder and president.

Dugout, which claims it is the first time so many of the world’s major clubs have united for a commercial venture, is aiming to build a huge fan base by offering content exclusively up to 24 hours before it is released on any other social media network.

The company would not reveal the shareholder structure, but senior executives of seven clubs – PSG, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Juventus and Chelsea – are listed as directors, according to filings at Companies House.

Sir Philip Green’s family is also a minority shareholder, a spokesman for the company confirmed.

The UK-based company has so far struck deals with 20 mostly European clubs including Manchester City, Galatasaray, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.

Growing interest in Asia means that at launch one of the languages the multi-platform Dugout will be offered in is Indonesian.

The site will be free to access and aims to focus on a similar model to Facebook by selling advertising against what it hopes will become a large user base.

The company has hired Kate Burns, the former Google, AOL and Buzzfeed executive, as executive vice-president to drive commercialising Dugout.

“It has been designed to engage and attract millennials from across the globe and we know this is a critical audience for advertisers to reach,” said Burns.

Burns said that from this week Dugout will be promoted to fans in partner club stadiums, such as on digital advertising hoardings alongside sponsors and other brands, as well as in match programmes and on club websites.

Dugout, which is launching on desktop, tablet and mobile devices, has secured media partners including Allianz, Coca Cola and BetVictor at launch.

The company says that it also partnering with “leading football influencers and legends” to create their own profiles and provide content to Dugout, including Pele.

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