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With Fan-Controlled Leagues, The Future Of Sports Is Democratized And Digital

Sway House co-founder weighs in on the future of sports, fan-controlled leagues.

Technology has been a game-changer on many fronts, giving people control over all aspects of their lives with the tap of a screen or the click of a button. As we move into February, sports fans are about to get their first look at the new frontier of the digital age: fan-controlled sports leagues.

With stats, plays, replays, and more at their fingertips, sports fans are more engaged and educated than ever. How many times do fans shout at their television screens, confident that if only they had been allowed to call the play, their team would be celebrating in the end zone? Why not give them the opportunity to build and direct their own teams?

That was the inspiration for former NFL/XFL player Ray Austin (New York Jets, Chicago Bears/Chicago Enforcers). Along with entrepreneurs Sohrob Farudi, Grant Cohen, and Patrick Dees, he founded the Fan Controlled Football League to put fans at home in control of everything happening on the field. The teams are venture-backed, with all major decisions turned over to the fans — from the team names and logos to the coaches, general managers, and player lineups. During the games, which are streamed on Twitch from one location in Las Vegas, the fans vote on and call the plays.

Fans are incentivized to make good decisions for their team’s future by being awarded FanIQ points, which are akin to experience points in the gaming world. Play votes posted by fans with more experience points carry a heavier weight.

The result is a genius combination of fantasy sports and the esports world. It appeals to a Gen Z audience that are half as likely as Millennials to identify as fans of live sports. The concept also unites people in new ways. Rather than bringing together fans based on their region and geographical location, fan-controlled leagues bring together fans everywhere based on similar ideas.

The concept also offers exciting new opportunities for investors. Unlike investors in traditional football teams, who are awarded a ceremonial stock certificate, for a minimum investment of $150, FCF fans and investors get to share in rising franchise values as well as profits.

While the NFL and XFL rely heavily on a stadium model — making money from ticket and concession sales — the FCF’s financial model is based on in-app purchases, micro-transactions, and Twitch subscription revenue. With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, the time is perfect for a sports model not built around ticketing revenue.

Will the Fan Controlled Football League replace the NFL? No, way. But it’s giving us a tantalizing glimpse into the figure of sports. Just as this league has been democratized and handed over to fans, so can leagues in hockey, soccer — and any other sport. In a world where all things digital and interactive rule, sports is the next frontier.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

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