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The curious case of a best-selling novelist and AFC Wimbledon

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Any non-regulars who watched AFC Wimbledon’s third-round FA cup tie against Liverpool recently may have noticed some peculiar sponsorship at Kingsmeadow. Liam Thompson explains more…

This season, including their big cup game against Liverpool, billboards around the pitch have displayed the name of mysterious internet group, unknown to many football fans over-30 at least, called “Nerdfighteria”.

Additionally, the team’s shorts carry the group’s logo, crossed arms and “DFTBA”, or to the uninitiated, “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”.

Nerdfighters are an online community of young, literate, ironic and humour filled campaigners – and their sponsorship of AFC Wimbledon came about from best-selling novelist, Nerdfighter-in-chief John Green.

“I like grass-roots football and believe we need more of it,” John told Reddit users in a Q&A at the start of the season. “Clubs like AFC Wimbledon remind us that your team doesn’t have to be sponsored by a middle eastern airline in order for you to enjoy professional football.”

John, who is a New York Times best-selling author, is most commonly known for The Fault In Our Stars – now a hit movie – and Looking For Alaska.

Along with his brother Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers, who have more than 2.3m subscribers on Youtbe.

John video blogs from Kingsmeadow ahead of the FA Cup tie:

They have been co-ordinating the Nerdfighter group for a number of years. The community regularly raises funds and together decide on charities or organisations to sponsor. John’s passion for English football, and positive action, led the group to sponsor Wimbledon.

Speaking of AFC Wimbledon’s rise from the ninth tier of English football, John said: “It’s a great story that reminds us that a football club is bigger than its owners or its players; it is made of the people who support the club.”

John runs an immensely popular Youtube channel where he plays FIFA as the Wimbly Womblys, his virtual version of the Dons complete with virtual John Greens. The advertising revenue from this pays for the sponsorship deal.

“I wanted to do something with the money coming in from Hankgames,” John said. “And it seemed like keeping it in the football world and supporting a club I liked would be fun. And it really has been.”

AFC Wimbledon has certainly benefited from the sponsorship, and it is an interesting sub-plot in an already very interesting story – but what do John Green and the young Nerdfighters get out of the deal?

“We get promotion in return”, John told Reddit. “It’s very important (for tax reasons!) that this not be a charity thing; we are supporting AFC Wimbledon because their audience of 45-year-old English guys is really the core audience of, like, my books.

“Where would my career be without 45-year-old English men? That’s what I always say.”

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.

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