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Recurrently Generated Football League: Kickstonians

From an aristocratic past to a private equity future, Kickstonians trace the march of progress that defines English football

Kickstonians Tyson Whiting, designer

Because it’s the international break and we’re bored, the writers of Cartilage Free Captain have been experimenting with machine learning and recurrent neural networks. The Recurrently Generated Football League is an outgrowth of that experimentation: a collection of generated fictional English football club names. The stadiums and SB Nation blogs are also recurrently generated. This is a fictional biography of a fictional football club generated by a computer. For science.

Based at one of England’s oldest public schools, Kickstonians were among football’s pioneers. But the club began a long decline when they refused to take the field in the first FA Cup competitions against teams of unlanded players. For most of the early 20th century, Kickstonians were primarily an upper-class social club. Following the imprisonment of much of its board in the late 1930s, the “Old Landlords” became little more than a trivia answer for decades.

This all changed in 1987, when a lockbox containing a series of old deeds to land, stock and other property was found at the clubhouse. Individual board members only dropped their personal claims to the wealth and accompanying lawsuits after Interpol and Israeli agents showed up to question the exact provenance and ownership of the deeds. The money was transferred instead to the books of Kickstonians and the team’s second life began. An in-house private equity firm grew the club’s finances precipitously, while a still-secret deal enabled Kickstonians to play home matches at Wembley nearly rent-free.

In the 2000s Kickstonians won trophy after trophy with a squad of superstar players signed to complex contracts in which compensation was linked to returns on capital and a nominal degree of unsalaried amateurism preserved. Tabloids overflowed with fawning coverage of this throwback team for reminding the country that before player salaries, football was about the love of the game. With a base of local support in Canary Wharf and fans from all over the world buying kits, scarves, and derivatives based on AAA-rated tranches of team debt, Kickstonians became the face of both the new and the old English football.

But the glory is fading. Four years ago Kickstonians fell out of the Champions League places for the first time in nearly two decades. Fans pinpoint the beginning of the troubles to a middle-of-the-night move to a new stadium in Surrey in 2010. The club has cut payroll and sold off stars to balance its books, but it is doubtful the new stadium could be causing serious hardship, given that it was financed by local tax receipts and is now owned by the club’s private equity arm. The new grounds, technically called The Stadium because naming rights are lotteried weekly among holders of so-called Premium derivatives, have been criticized by fans for poor sight-lines and cheap construction. Investigators have lodged further allegations of irregularities including unprotected electrical wiring and a storeroom full of fertilizer under the West Stand. When Kickstonians host Clood next week at United Mineworkers Retirement Fund Stadium, they will be looking to get back to their winning ways of the last decade.

Kickstonians kits Tyson Whiting, designer