The matches are announced online, and people can sign up whenever they feel like it. The whole thing is pretty low commitment; just bring your own cleats. The so-called Urban Masters, who referee, provide the ball and the goalposts.
The Urban Masters also grade the players, after each match the website automatically creates teams that will make good opponents for future games. FC Urban membership costs 10 euros a month, and the first month is free. Oosterhoff describes it as ‘the Netflix model applied to sports.’
Oosterhoff had read online about similar concepts in other cities, but there was nothing like it in Groningen. So the student of international business decided to organise a local football match system himself – with the help of his friend, Lars van Veen. So he contacted the founders of FC Urban, and on June 28, Groningen will see its first match.
Largest in the world
‘As a student, I didn’t have time for any of the obligations that come with playing a sport’, says Sem. ‘By getting FC Urban to Groningen I hope to appeal to those students who, just like me, like to play a match now and again with no obligations.’
The first match took place last April in Amsterdam. The club currently has five hundred members, in Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Hoorn, and London. FC Urban wants to expand to all the big cities in the Netherlands, as well as the major football cities in Europe: Paris, Milan, Barcelona. ‘Our goal for next year is to become the largest club in the world’, explains FC Urban founder Kees Lohman.
When Sem proposed a branch in Groningen, Lohman was enthusiastic: ‘It’s great that someone likes the idea and wants to really do something with it.’
FC Urban Groningen won’t have its first match until Thursday, but the club already has eighty potential members. Oosterhoff: ‘We’ll probably need to do more organising next year. In Amsterdam they play about two matches a day, and they have ten Urban Masters working for them.’
Football is a social sport, and the players often get a drink together after the matches. FC Urban offers all the socialising perks of an association, without the obligations of a club.
This has a special appeal for international students, who ‘have a hard time finding people to play football with. FC Urban presents a solution to this problem’, says Sem.
Founder Kees Lohman has noted high international interest in other cities as well. ‘Expats make up a large part of people who are interested. They often don’t have a lot of contacts here and FC Urban makes it easier for them to meet locals.’