BBC launches new interactive drama Footballers United

Date: 28.11.2014     Last updated: 11.12.2014 at 07.38
The BBC is today launching a brand new interactive drama, Footballers United, as part of its World War One season. Footballers United combines fictional and archived content to tell the true story of a community and characters surrounding the Heart of Midlothian football team from 1914-1919 in Scotland.
I think Footballers United tells the story of this very important change of a young generation, then, in a way that a young generation can relate to, now.Gemma Fay, Captain and Goalkeeper of the Scottish National Women’s Football team

Produced by Somethin’ Else and written and directed by Alex Winckler (My Mad Fat Diary, Hollyoaks), the drama is available at footballersunited.co.uk via desktop, mobile and tablet. It follows the stories of both the men and women, in Edinburgh and around the country, whose lives were forever changed by World War One.

Footballers United features five chapters which consist of video, audio, image and text content, with the overall experience being around 60 minutes. Archived content is presented by well-known football player Gemma Fay, Captain and Goalkeeper of the Scottish National Women’s Football team.

The Drama

Footballers United tells the story of best friends Jack (Keiran Gallacher - Now’s The Hour) and Gib (Robert Armitage); Jack’s love interest Nelly (Leah Byrne - Killing Me Softly) and her best friend Jessie (Holly Jack - River City, Waterloo Road) from 1914 until after the war in 1919.

The women: Nelly and Jessie experience changes for women that have never been seen before. Over the course of four years they start working, earning money, playing football and going out - they become independent and free, even their clothing and hair changes. But when the war ends life is expected to go back to normal - but does it? Can it?

The men: Jack and Gib are footballers who play for the second Hearts’ team. When the war starts they have an opportunity to play for the first team, but playing football while other young boys their age are out there fighting is controversial. They both sign up to McCrae’s Battalion and head to battle in France.

Audience interaction: Each part of the story is a standalone piece of content which is shareable online. A clever interactive timeline prompts the audience to access related archive content, such as images, text and video. When selected, this content appears as an overlay on the screen, with the drama paused in the background.

For a more personal experience the audience can sign in via Facebook and the timeline maps events in WW1 to their social media graph; showing how their friends and a modern day social community would have fared throughout the war. For example, when the viewer pass the first day of the Somme in the drama, a social item will appear that shows the number of their friends that would have lost their lives had they been in the battle at the time.

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “BBC Learning is exploring new and innovative ways for the BBC to create engaging, informative and entertaining content for our audiences, and Footballers United is a perfect example of this. This interactive drama blends high quality video with archived content in a way we’ve never done before; which not only gives the story depth but brings an important topic like WW1 to a new and contemporary audience.”

Gemma Fay, Captain and Goalkeeper of the Scottish National Women’s Football team, says: “This global war had a huge and devastating effect on men, women and a whole generation. What I find really interesting is the culture change that happened in everyday life, with women gaining a new sense of freedom and new responsibilities; from starting to work in factories to things that for us today feels obvious, like being allowed to play football. I can’t imagine what it was like when the war ended and society was meant to somehow revert ‘back to normal’. I think Footballers United tells the story of this very important change of a young generation then, in a way that a young generation can relate to, now.”

This drama has been commissioned and produced by BBC Learning in collaboration with Somethin’ Else. BBC Learning plays a central part in meeting the BBC's purpose of promoting education and learning, including the commissioning of iWonder content. BBC iWonder provides factual formats designed to unlock the learning potential of all BBC content, from interactive guides and curated content to high quality interactive dramas and videos.

Notes to Editors

This project was devised, developed and written with the help of Tim Wright. Somethin’ Else is a full service content agency working with brands and broadcasters to create content across online, television and radio. They are the current children’s BAFTA company of the year and well known for games such as Nightjar and Papa Sangre. They have most recently worked with the BBC to create the new Doctor Who and The Dalek game.

MA