10?’s with VERSUS’ editor-in-chief & journalist, Corey Pellatt

At Nomad, we love VERSUS. The football, culture and society platform that constantly delivers and it’s how we find out what’s going on in the sport. We caught up with editor-in-chief and journalist, Corey Pellatt, to learn more about it.


First and foremost, how did you come up with the idea for VERSUS and are you doing that others aren’t?

My first job after graduating university was as ‘Sports Editor’ with Complex UK, the first international offshoot of Complex – a US lifestyle giant covering music, sneakers, style, sports and more. My job in that role was to try and cover football from a culture-first perspective, really taking a lead from how Complex treated the NBA. We did some great work in that time but unfortunately, ‘soccer’ only gets so much love from a major US platform. I felt I was one of the first people to really see how football was changing from a cultural and social perspective: players were turning up to Fashion Week, UK rap was making music inspired by new wave ballers, the game was under constant political pressure to be more fair and representative of a diverse and inclusive society.

I felt no one else was really talking about these things – definitely not in football media. I started ‘VERSUS’ in 2017, alongside my colleague Lewis, with an exclusive focus on sport, music and style. We used to have a Venn diagram that saw our brand existing in the cross-section between those three things and that was our editorial focus at the very beginning. When footballers linked up with Drake backstage, we covered it. When Off-White dropped their first football-inspired pieces, we covered it. When Dave rapped about Marcus Rashford, we covered it.

Off-White x AC Milan

As with anything, our focus has adapted and shifted over time. We went from looking at all sports to focusing exclusively on football and we came to recognise that what we were really passionate about was ‘new’ ideas in football and trying to engender positive change. That meant we began to look at Hector Bellerin speaking out on misogyny and Donald Trump, as important as his decision to walk the runway for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week. That’s where ‘The Future of Football’ idea really came from, supporting those who want to make football – and the wider world – a better place.


VERSUS is ‘The Future of Football’. What does that mean and how do we get there?

Internally, we say that our work should always be looking to make football a more safe, inclusive and accessible space – I think that’s what ‘The Future of Football’ needs to be.

It’s about building a new kind of culture where everyone feels empowered and accepted for who they are, free from prejudice and discrimination. I think this is important not just from an identity perspective, but also self-expression and cultural fluidity.

You look at how traditionally, the media hasn’t always respect a player’s right to style their hair a certain way or attend a Fashion Week event. You look at how while Marcus Rashford was doing amazing work, he was told to stick to football and that his form was suffering. You think about the abuse women in football have been faced with, whether it’s on-screen or on-pitch. We’re the antithesis of all of that and think the future should be, too.

In terms of how we get there, it’s difficult to answer as I don't think there’s an overnight solution and it’s happening in small steps: a more diverse media, greater support and respect for women’s football, governing bodies starting to engage with issues like anti-racism and mental health (albeit nowhere near enough). We see our job, as a media platform, to challenge those with power to do better on issues they’re already aware of and start the conversation around topics they’re yet to think about.


Players like Mbappe are embracing this culture and becoming bigger than their clubs, leagues, national teams and arguably bigger than football itself. Is this the beginning of players as global superbrands? And what does that mean for everyone else in football?

I think David Beckham helped start this conversation 20 years ago and the Messi-Ronaldo axis accelerated it to a new dimension. When Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed person on Instagram globally, and Leo Messi has the most-liked post of all time it shows you just how influential the biggest players in the world are.

I’m not sure this changes too much on the pitch. The biggest players will need to play at the highest level to sustain their ‘star power’, and they’ll likely look for the biggest paycheque to help them do it. The numbers will probably keep on growing, but that’s been a reality in football for a long, long time now...

Where the ‘Age of the Superstar’ does have an impact is with fan culture and watchability. The football calendar is so big right now, I do think you have to be quite tactful with what you watch and when – so the games with the biggest players always feel like the biggest draw. It does leave some of the ‘smaller’ Premier League and EFL games in the shade a little bit, which is why I think the ‘European Super League’ idea will eventually come back around again in some way, shape or form. If the numbers are trending to suggest that’s what people want – if not now, likely in the future – those in power will keep pushing for that change.

Lionel Messi lifting the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Versus x Bukayo Saka
VERSUS x Leah Williamson

You speak about VERSUS having a genuine love of the culture and how this gets you access to like-minded players when others can’t. Do you think you can use this power to develop VERSUS into something bigger?

I’d like to think we already are! We describe ourselves as a media brand and fan community, leveraging the passion of our team and the love from our audience to create a myriad of content formats, products and experiences.

We’ve produced long-form editorial features with some of the biggest men’s and women’s players in the world, created original audio and video series’, put on sold-out events in cities across the UK, and activated major partnerships with some of the most influential brands in football and wider culture.

We produce all our content on the principles of openness, respect and good-faith. I think our audience (fans and players) recognise that, which means when we go into different spaces they typically follow

What Ballers Wear – Lauren Hemp
What Ballers Wear – Ella Toone
What Ballers Wear – Lauren James

Your Instagram captions and tone of voice are another aspect of VERSUS that we love – successfully championing long-form copy on a platform that is designed for imagery. Can you tell us more how you decided to go in this direction and how did you define your tone of voice?

I think the greatest innovations are often coincidental – Isaac Newton first theorised gravity when an apple fell on his head – and the captions aren’t a million miles away from that! It was just a process of constant evolution and our editorial team being more confident in what we wanted our brand to feel like.

In those early days we often defined ourselves by what we weren’t – we weren’t stuffy, we weren’t tactical, we weren’t judgemental, we weren’t only passionate about football, we weren’t the same as establishment media – and over time those beliefs just got more visible in our work. If you imagined the last way BBC, BT or Sky would write about football, that’s what we wanted our work to be – but still scream of excellence!

The first prototypical VERSUS caption was in late 2019 and it immediately seemed to connect with people who didn’t see their language reflected elsewhere in football. It was as simple as ‘people liked that, shall we do it again?’

19/03/23 – Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
11/04/23 – Man City vs Bayern Munich
05/03/23 – Liverpool vs Man Utd

With that being said, we’ve started to notice other media outlets copying your copywriting style. How do you feel about that?

It’s definitely a mixed bag. We get a lot of joy out of seeing young creators produce content in our style as an homage – and we’ve actually ended up working with some of those people – but seeing much larger companies in our space quite blatantly re-pivot their entire social strategy around ‘our’ lens is frustrating.

I think the only thing we can do in that situation is to keep on setting the pace and do work better than the rest. Let’s write stuff they can’t, and take captions to places they won’t. We’ve made our community a big part of that process – asking them for suggestions on who to cover, and asking them to write ‘lyrics’ that we then use in captions – which is a big differentiator.

I like to say we talk with our audience, while other media brands talk to their audience.


VERSUS captures the subculture where football, music and style meet, something that isn’t relevant for all football fans; this is what makes it special and interesting. Are you scared of VERSUS becoming mainstream media and losing something?

No, I’m not concerned by this cultural and social space continuing to grow – I’m actually very encouraging of it.

We often say our ‘Big Bang’ moment was the Pogba x Stormzy video in 2016 – that was a collaboration between one of the biggest players, one of the biggest rappers, one of the biggest sports brands, and one of the biggest football clubs on the planet. That was a mainstream moment and actually opened up so much white space that no one else was ready to fill.

We’re under no illusion that what happens on the pitch will remain the epicentre of football – ‘traditional’ football conversations aren’t going anywhere – but what we’re hoping to do is build a context outside of the match that’s more reflective of contemporary youth culture. If that space continues to grow, it just gives us so many more opportunities and our brand grows with it.


What are the criteria for a VERSUS ‘Admin’s Grail’?

An ‘Admin’s Grail’ is simply one of the greatest football product drops of all time. We live in a world right now where there are more amazing, fashion-forward football drops than ever before – but let’s give some respect to the products and designers that paved the way!

An Admin’s Grail definitely needs to be rare, hard to acquire, and made some indelible print on the story of football.

Our first one (I think) was a Nike T90 slider from 2004. Everyone of a certain age remembers how much T90 ran football, I think everyone had a couple of pairs at one stage or another – and probably a drawstring bag, a school rucksack, a T90 tee, etc. But a T90 moccasin-style slider? That’s the type of product diversity you’d expect brands to be trying now but it happened in 2004, and not many people knew about it

Nike Total 90 III mocs
Adidas F50 Tunits football boots
Nike Geo Merlin Cage Secret Tournament ball

Was it always the intention for VERSUS to champion grassroots clubs as much as it was elite athletes? With the sponsorship of the grassroots community club, South London Laces, is this something we will see more of in the future?

VERSUS has always been about making football a safe and accessible space for everyone, and grassroots clubs are often the embodiment of that. They give people a sense of belonging and community you often don’t get from being a fan of the professional game, and South London Laces is a great example of that. It’s an honour to play a very small part in supporting them on their journey, and I have to give credit to Avery Dennison who pulled the strings in making that partnership a reality.

One thing we’re exploring at the moment – especially within the women’s game – is giving grassroots and amateur players access to the experiences and resources that are usually the preserves of the professional game: strength and conditioning workshops, masterclass sessions, mental health check-ins, and leadership seminars. No matter the level you play at, people want to be able to look after themselves – we’re in the very early stages of seeing how we can make that happen.


We work with Premier League and other similar clients on a daily basis and we’re always looking for new innovations in design for football. What, in your opinion, is needed to push football forward and into the future?

I think the most important thing to be aware of is that change is coming! Standing still and refusing to innovate is the worst thing you can do. As a result, I think having open-minded leaders who are willing to embrace a diversity of ideas is really important. There are far too many examples in football of the game’s powerbrokers – especially in UEFA and FIFA – not understanding the issues facing the sport’s most vulnerable groups.

Shaking up leadership and making it more reflective of the modern world is the safest way to futureproof your organisation against any changes that are likely to come over the horizon.

Corey Pellatt is an award-winning journalist and editor who is passionate about documenting new sports culture, shining a light on positive and groundbreaking stories on and off the pitch. Currently Editor-in-Chief at VERSUS; the platform championing the future of football and its rising influence on new music and culture.

Corey Pellatt & versus.uk.com

Questions: Craig Berry & Flossie Malster
Editor: Craig Berry

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