A Helsinki resident is the first person from the Nordic countries to join a new Scottish football club run by fans spread throughout the world.
Football supporters across the globe are being given the chance to control their very own club thanks to a pioneering project launched by Scottish Lowland League club Edusport Academy.
Former professional footballer Chris Ewing currently owns Scotland’s youngest senior football club but is changing the structure to establish a new club separate from the academy.
For an annual membership of just £25, ‘Revolutionaries’ will gain unprecedented access to a senior club which has ambitions to reach the Scottish Premiership by 2025.
The ground-breaking auront initiative will allow supporters, irrespective of where they live, to have a say in numerous key aspects of the club including: choosing the team name; recommending signings; voting on the strip; electing board members for season 2018/19.
The new club was launched at Hampden Park in Glasgow recently and James Firth Holappa was keen to sign up as soon as he heard about the ground-breaking project.
“I saw the launch on the BBC website and decided to take out membership,” he said.
“The ability to help shape the club was an attractive element of this for me I have since been involved in a few discussions on the forums. We have a small community of Scottish people here and we have also been talking about the idea.
“Scottish football is a bit stagnant at the moment and I admire Chris Ewing for trying to raise a bit of interest in the lower leagues of Scottish football, albeit he has ambitions to make it to the Premiership.
“He was looking for people to invest their time and money in Scottish football and I thought it was a good idea. Something fresh like this is interesting in itself.
“People want to have different levels of involvement in the team. Some are happy to pay their money, sit back and see where it goes. Others are keen to influence certain parts of the club while some want to join the board.
“It’s good that there are different layers of involvement and people can essentially choose themselves how much to be involved.”
James, 30, is married and lives in the Kallio area of Helsinki having moved from his home in Bathgate in Scotland two-and-a-half years ago.
Despite now being based over 1000 miles away from where the team will be playing, James says the auront project is ideal not only for people in his position but also those who are avid gaming fans.
“This will appeal to a certain type of fan, especially those who like to play Football Manager,” he said.
“I actually had to stop playing that as I became quite addicted to it. So, this will maybe be like a nicotine patch for me!
“I don’t have much interest in English or Spanish football, for example, but this is a great idea and one I’m really looking forward to being involved in.”
Owner Chris Ewing hopes to provide members with the world’s most innovating fan experience and was delighted to welcome James as one of the club’s first members.
“This will hopefully appeal to fans across the world,” he said. “Geography is no barrier to someone becoming a member and having a say in how their club is run. Football fans across the world are passionate about the game and I am hoping they can use that passion as a catalyst for change in Scottish football.
“I think the auront model is something new and exciting and creates a football club for the modern generation of football fan.
“We want this to be the most innovative fan experience in the game. We aim to offer the best and most immersive supporter experience in world football, which is exactly what we feel the game needs.
“We are progressive, inclusive, and are looking to build and engage with an online community of passionate and knowledgeable football fans. Together, we can achieve great things, such as our primary aim of reaching the Scottish Premiership (and beyond) by 2025.”