Creator Series introduces the individuals who are using their inspiration and talent to push football culture forward.
Self-titled “the beautiful game’s weirdest league on the planet”, Portland's Toffee League is central to the city's football culture, and was co-founded by talented UK-ex pat Niki Diamond.
How would you describe The Toffee Club bar?
The Toffee Club is inspired by the pubs we love from back at home in London. We’ve been careful to avoid becoming a sports bar, even though our focus is football and we serve a lot of the sporting community. We’ve tried to keep everything as true to what we would find at home, with a Portland twist.
The pub becomes the clubhouse for the league as soon as the games begin. It gives players a place to gather after their match, to catch up with teammates and enjoy a pint in the sun. Having the space away from the pitch allows us to really elevate the social side of the league.
How did you get the league started?
We did a customisation project with Avery Dennison the summer before for Copa90 so we were in conversations with them about how to take the partnership to the next level. The idea of launching a new league came about soon after Copa America, we had done a couple of one-off tournaments and we could sense the interest from our players for something bigger.
We knew that other leagues were building football communities in Paris, New York and beyond so we saw this as an opportunity to do the same for Portland.
What is the standard of football like?
The standard was surprisingly higher than we expected. There’s always a fine balance to make sure the games are competitive but also fun. The fact that we made it coed was a major part in creating a less aggressive game on the pitch and a more fun environment off the pitch.
What is the standard of creativity?
Portland is a hub of creativity and we like to do things a bit differently here, hence the hashtag #makefoodtballweird. We encourage teams to get as creative as they can and really make the league their own.
We’ve added a few more creative agencies and collectives to the lineup this year so we’re expecting things to be stepped up a level.
What have the players got in common?
All of the players have a love for football but often the socialising after the game is just as important to them. We could see that no-one is really bridging that gap between the game and the social aspect in Portland. The Toffee Club has become our clubhouse where everyone gathers after the games for pints, snacks and long Sunday afternoons in the sun.
What have you got planned for 2018?
We’ve grown from eight to twelve teams this year, with all new kits, new sponsorships and partnerships. Each team will have a brand new kit and opportunities to make things bigger, better and more weird. There will be tie-ins with the World Cup and a much more global reach.
What is football culture like in Portland? What’s happening?
Football culture in Portland is booming, from the guys who got into football during the 70’s with the days of the original NASL games, to the dedicated Premier League fans who are up at 5am to watch their team at the weekend, to the Timbers and Thorns fans who pack the stadium every home game.
Football is becoming the dominant sports culture in Portland, during a matchday it feels like you’re in Europe with everyone wearing their kits and jerseys and singing the chants.
This season’s final will be held at Providence Park, the home of the Timbers and Thorns.
Do you have relationships with Nike and adidas there?
We have players from both adidas and Nike on our teams, as well as the creative agencies that work with them. We played one of the Away Day games at Nike HQ last season.