MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

This is Football’s biggest underground secret

It isn’t match-fixing, doping, or even money laundering. It isn’t even that Lionel Messi is, in fact, an alien.

It’s not dirty, illegal or even extra-terrestrial. So, then, what on earth is it? It is the London Underground football league of course!

The unique concept sees employees from Tube lines, including District Line, Piccadilly Line and the Bakerloo Line, battle to be crowned champions of the underground.

We still don’t know if he’s human.

To explain more the SportsGazette spoke to the league’s founder, and former District Line AFC manager, Andy Anthony.

“It started out as a one-off, inter-line, cup competition between nine teams. We created the league off the back of its success,” said Andy.

“I put out as many messages as I could to try and get people together. We started out with ten teams in the end.

“The league now has twelve teams. It is split into two divisions of six teams. There is also a league cup and charity cup,” he said.

The league was founded in 1996. Andy set up District Line AFC that same year. He noticed an immediate impact.

District Line AFC
The District Line club crest

 “People were doing their own thing in sport. Now you get staff, from senior managers to customer service assistants, all in the same place.

“The one thing that all these people have in common is the underground and a love of football. It has brought people together.

“There is a real camaraderie between the players. It has built a team spirit and created a good atmosphere at work,” Andy explained.

Jason Hill took over as District Line’s manager, this season, after Andy retired. Jason guided them to a third-place finish in the second division.

 “I first started working for Transport For London as a stations train operative during the London 2012 Olympics,” said Jason.

“I’m a signalman now. At first it was tough to balance the work and football. The shift work is one of the hardest obstacles.”

Jason is the District Line AFC manager.

Jason is working hard to raise awareness of the league. He is trying to do so online via social media.

“Social media has refreshed people’s interest in non-league and amateur football,” he said.

“We set up a Twitter account to broaden our audience and harness new ideas for the club and league.

“By interacting with other amateur teams, from around the country, we can get different perspectives that can help us grow.

“We hope by generating more interest in District Line, and the other teams in the league, we can expand the league further.”

It’s certainly working. Peter Crouch said, in BBC Five Live interview, that his father once played for the District Line.

https://twitter.com/5liveSport/status/1063560005272707072
Peter Crouch and Chris Stark discussed the London Underground football league

Interest in the league from within is growing too. There are currently several teams, on a waiting list, who want to join the league.

Andy – and Jason – hope the league will continue to flourish, thanks to a new generation of players, as Andy said:

“I think the future is bright for the league. With ever-expanding TFL networks and growing numbers of staff, hopefully, it will continue to grow.

“The guys who have taken over, like Jason, have great enthusiasm for it. Hopefully, that will mean, it will be long running into the future.”

You can catch a Tube match yourself at Market Road pitches, Islington, where District Line AFC play. Follow them on Twitter to find out when their next game is.

Before you head down – check out my video below introducing Jason and the District Line team!

This is: The London Underground Football League

Featured image/Ss147