15: Le Ballon

 Photo Credit:  Le Ballon

Photo Credit: Le Ballon

Have you ever dreamed of creating your own football club? Well, this is the story of some football fans who went several steps further. They created an entire league. And like many ambitious ideas, it all starts in a pub.

In the lead up to the 2014 World Cup, Jack Whelan and his brother were trying to find a place to watch the games in Paris, which proved difficult due to the existing football culture. Unlike Jack’s native England and many other places, going to the pub with your friends isn’t as common in Paris. But Jack’s brother already owned a bar/club so they decided to turn it into the go-to destination for football fans during the tournament.

This wasn’t just any football pub though. They wanted to make sure it would be a welcoming place and open to everyone, not just avid football supporters. This approach influenced everything they did, from the decor to the pubs name and logo. They called it Le Ballon and hosted their launch party in partnership with local fashion store, Colette, ensuring they would reach out to fashion types and creatives who would see that watching football at the pub with your friends can be a great experience.

It was a big success and Le Ballon was packed with crowds every day. They were also getting attention from brands throughout the tournament who wanted to work with them, which led to Jack and friends founding a sports marketing agency called Nutmeg. After the World Cup was over, they then had the idea to create their own team, just like pubs in the UK who all have their own pub teams and play Sunday League football.

They initially pitched the idea to other bars in the area to see if they were open to playing some one off games or maybe starting a league, but none of them were interested. Instead, they turned to the community and connections they had built over the summer. Gathering in the basement of the pub, they chose eight team captains who were all given the freedom to create their own clubs from scratch, including colours, logo, kits and the players who would join their new teams. Jack had also presented the idea to Nike who had agreed to provide the gear and financial assistance to get the project off the ground. Le Ballon Football League was born.

The eight teams are made up of various artists, creatives and football lovers around Paris, and each of them with their own unique style. Including Public House FC, taking their inspiration from pub football and terrace culture. River Dubplate, a team of DJ’s. The 300, an exclusive Facebook group of PSG supporters and Paris 75ers, a collection of artists and fashion types whose contrasting logo is the humble pigeon.

Despite being an amateur league, there was a real insistence on doing things the right way, with a professional approach. Not only was presentation important but practical things too, like hiring referees and coaches and hosting regular training sessions for all teams. They were even invited to play their first round of matches at the home of French football, Clairefontaine.

Since its establishment, LBFL has made strong connections with the football community in Paris and inspired fans around the world. It’s a football league unlike any other, where the beautiful game merges with fashion, music and design. It’s reflection of the cultural influence the game has had and continues to have around the globe.