In broadening baseball’s nickname as “America’s pastime,” the “U.K. Oakland A’s,” a United Kingdom based Oakland A’s supporters group, stands as a testament to the power of sports in bringing people together — both within and across borders.
The unofficial “home to U.K. based fans of the Oakland Athletics,” as touted on the group’s page on X, formerly known as Twitter, traces back to 1997, when Dom Clarke, a resident of Bolton, U.K., and one of the founding members of the group, attended his first A’s game on opening night of that year during a trip overseas to visit his older sister in Alameda.
“As a young kid I just fell in love with the lights, and the game, really,” Clarke said.
This love of the game followed him back across the pond where he said he continued to support the team. Around the same time on the opposite side of the country in Norwich, Matt Smith, another founding member of the group, also had a budding interest in baseball and the A’s.
But Smith says his ties to the team came about a bit more randomly than Clarke’s.
“I kind of had no reason to pick anyone, and I just happened to see the A’s on some highlights with green and gold caps and thought ‘well that’s a bit like my soccer team.’ So, that’s kind of the very random way I ended up with Oakland,” Smith said.
Their paths would first cross in 2012, as the A’s traversed a memorable season capped by a six-game win streak to clinch the top spot in the American League West division. During the season, Clarke and Smith connected after they began live-tweeting games in an effort to reach other U.K.-based A’s fans.
“There was a small group of us that started to tag each other in Tweets while we were watching games,” Clarke said. “It was that sort of nucleus — if you like — that’s stuck together.”
That nucleus, including Clarke, Smith, London resident Hannah Tomlinson and Clarke’s brother-in-law Mark Grundy, would go on to form the U.K. Oakland A’s Twitter account in June of 2017.
UK Oakland A’s represents just one of an entire league’s worth of UK fan accounts. According to Clarke, each MLB team has a corresponding U.K. fan group, and just like the teams they support, rivalries between accounts aren’t uncommon.
“We’ve had a lot of run-ins with George, who runs the Houston Astros (U.K. fan) account,” Clarke said. “We’ve always operated together, and he’s a great guy, but we’ve had a lot of throwdowns on Twitter.”
Clarke says the UK Oakland A’s account has blossomed into more than just a thriving community, but a family. The group has organized trips to various cities to watch the A’s play, including Oakland, Seattle and Tokyo, and even hosted the Oakland 68’s, an Oakland-based A’s supporters group, in the U.K.
Over the years, UK Oakland A’s have expanded to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as adding a blog, a podcast and creating video content on YouTube.
The A’s current plans to uproot the team from their Oakland home and relocate to the Las Vegas strip, however, have cast some doubt on the future of the U.K. Oakland A’s.
“All four of us are pretty unanimous and united in the fact that if they move to Vegas, that’s it, it’s done, we’ll just shut it down. We won’t be running a UK Las Vegas A’s account,” Clarke said. “We’ll just leave it as a historical thing for the Oakland A’s.”
For now, though, the group is holding out hope that the team will stay in Oakland so that they can continue to help grow America’s pastime into a more global one, and introduce as many people as possible to the close-knit community and culture that comes with being an Oakland A’s fan.