La Media Inglesa sends 250 Spanish fans to Wembley to support Wycombe
We spoke to Ilie Oleart about how 250 Spanish Wycombe Wanderers fans went to the Wembley final against Sunderland for promotion to the Championship.
Thousands of English fans and 250 Spanish supporters shared one of the most highly anticipated moments of British football at Wembley stadium on May 21: Sunderland’s promotion to Championship after four years of being sidelined in League One. The famous Netflix documentary “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” got the attention of people from all over the world to follow the Black Cats’ struggle to move up the English football hierarchy.
Beyond the match itself (the final concluded with a well-deserved 2-0 win over Wycombe
Wanderers, a small club from the town of High Wycombe, near London, what was quite impressive was how a modest club like Wycombe Wanderers was able to mobilize 250 fans from all over Spain and parts of South America in such extraordinary fashion to support the side, which ultimately lost.
Even the English press reported on the massive arrival of the foreign enthusiasts who were rallying in the Wycombe fan zone, as if it were the World Cup final, singing nonstop inside and outside of the stadium, ignoring the hot sun, which felt more Spanish than British, while enjoying this festival of football despite their side’s loss. The objective was to participate in the accomplishment of this small team that had somehow won over their hearts.
Of course, we are wondering the same thing: How did such an unknown team generate this level of allegiance outside of its country? Who was responsible for this mysterious deployment?
The answer can be found in one of the most important YouTube channels about English football for Spanish speakers: La Media Inglesa, which is an International Media Partner of the club. We talked to Ilie Oleart, the channel’s founder, to hear how they managed to raise such an incredible interest in Spanish fans and mobilize them so that for a few hours the unknown Wycombe Wanderers would become the team of their dreams.
Let’s go back to the beginning: How did the Media Inglesa project begin?
The project began in 2010. I had been working for five years in Mexico and I wanted to set up a journalism startup. I went to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and realized there was global passion for English football. I met fans from all over the world and the common theme was a general passion for British football. I thought it would be a good idea to focus the project on English football for Spanish speakers. That’s why we launched the web in 2011, then a podcast and lastly we started to post videos. The beginning was very do-it-yourself. I started it with my younger brother from scratch. I had never worked as a journalist, nobody knew who I was and it was a project that started from the ground up.
What is the current situation of the project?
We are currently a multiplatform project. The podcast is sidelined for now because of lack of resources and we have the website that has undergone several changes over the years. We are especially focused on YouTube, the platform that allows us to be economically sustainable thanks to memberships. Next summer we will doing live shows on Twitch for the channel to keep growing.
Of course we are also generating content in the rest of the main social media platforms. The main thing is to keep the communication flowing with our community, always focusing on English football. At the moment there are seven of us and it is a sustainable project; modest, but independent and free. We hope to keep growing.
What are the long-term goals of La Media Inglesa?
We have several goals. As a project, we have always focused on the community and one of our main goals is to continue strengthening our relationship. Really, our final objective is to make people happy, help them improve their lives with entertainment. To achieve that it is important to rely on communicative innovation. We want to innovate from a technical and journalistic point of view, so we are committed to a strong branch of research and in that case the World Cup in Qatar will be a turning point. Likewise, we are preparing a lot of research content without forgetting to play the role of controllers that journalists have in a healthy society.
Finally there is a mid-to-long term project to buy an English club as a community with the objective of not only entertainment, but also putting into practice the social positioning that we preach for football clubs. We understand that clubs should be a basic pillar in any society and community, they must help bring people together and that is the challenge of buying an English club in the lower tiers, of course (5th or 6th division). We want to gain sports success through a different path, a path open to fans’ opinions, based on strong values and backed by a management concept that is very different to what is practiced in most clubs today.
How did the union between Wycombe Wanderers and the La Media Inglesa come about?
The truth is it started by chance. A lot of people told us they had started following English football because of us, but they didn’t know what team to follow. So we thought, instead of telling them what team to follow, to ask the clubs, 92 from the EFL, to give us a reason for our community to support them. We got 13 replies from 92 emails, several from the Premier League, although they were very customer service-type automated responses. Some of the more modest clubs, like for example the Tranmere Rovers, whose owner answered us directly, and the Wycombe Wanderers, the only club that answered us in Spanish. The new owners were from the United States and spoke a little Spanish so they answered us in Spanish. Later, we posted the video for the community with answers and we also sent the video to clubs that answered us. After the video, Wycombe was amazed at the impact it had.
So, they invited us to go to their stadium and Nacho González and I went to an FA Cup match against the Tranmere Rovers. From that day on we became fascinated with the club because of its values: a family club from a relatively small, somewhat forgotten, working class town outside of London. Moreover, the club had a very peculiar coach who has had the position for over ten years, a healthy anomaly these days. Of course they also had a figure that transcended the club itself, the recently retired Adebayo Akinfenwa. All of these factors made us connect with them and with the community. From that point on we followed the club’s day-to-day closer until the point in which they asked us to become an International media partner in 2021.
How did the idea come up of taking 250 people to the final in Wycombe’s fan section at Wembley?
One of the things we wanted to do in the channel was to bring the passion for English football to the people. We always wanted to take trips with the community so they could feel the passion of the English fans from the inside. We had already organized several trips: one to watch West Ham vs Newcastle match, another in Manchester to see Sheffield United vs Brighton, which was important because we want to show people the most modest stadiums.
When the pandemic ended we thought that the Wycombe Wanderers vs Sheffield Wednesday match was the perfect opportunity because it was a decisive game for Wycombe and it was the last home match for Adebayo.
In this sense, we prepared the Wycombe day where we could hang out near the field in an area with canopies for 100 people who traveled there on their own. It was a positive experience for us, for the community and for the club, who were surprised by the exemplary behaviour of the spirited Spanish fans.
Once they qualified for the League One playoff final we got in touch with them to travel to Wembley and they immediately got us 200 tickets in the central fan zone. Those tickets were sold out in less than 48 hours and we managed to get 50 more that were also sold out. That ‘s how we experienced an incredible day in Wembley. In the end we saw the promotion of a historical club like Sunderland, who deserved to win the match without a doubt. It was an intense day and very special for everyone. We hope the story continues and we can go back soon.