Bringing every football fan’s fantasy to life: A league where fans call the plays.

Jeremy Liew
Lightspeed Venture Partners
4 min readSep 22, 2020

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FCF Owners — they all bring their own style and vision to the table but they can’t build their team without you.

Americans love to watch football. The TV show with the highest ratings of the season is Sunday night football. Second highest is Thursday night football. Third highest is … you guessed it, Monday night football.

But watching isn’t enough. Fans want to be more involved. They want to pick players. They want to call plays. That’s what has made Fantasy Football so popular in America — 59M people play each season (US & Canada). That’s why Madden is the best selling sports game franchise, far more popular than NBA2k.

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest systemic racism, the whole nation tuned in and everyone had an opinion.

Football is pop culture.

For nearly a century, the NFL has ruled football. Other leagues have tried to copy their model, most recently the AAF and the second coming of the XFL, and none have succeeded so far. You can’t out NFL the NFL. You need to do something different.

The founders of Fan Controlled Football (FCF) ARE doing something different. They asked the question, what if you reimagined football for the digital age and gave fans the power to make the decisions? They’re launching a real-world football league, streamed on Twitch, where fans name the teams, design the logos, draft the players, decide the rules, and call the plays in real-time. The play with the most fan support is run by the team on the field.

It’s the ultimate level of fan involvement.

And that’s why we’re so excited to announce Lightspeed’s investment in Fan Controlled Football, the future of fantasy sports and gaming experiences.

FCF is revolutionizing the future of immersive sports and entertainment by combining the competition of fantasy sports, the engagement of video games, and the global reach of esports.

The founders tested this concept in 2017 by buying a team in the IFL (Indoor Football League). They allowed the fans to choose the city (Salt Lake), name the team (Screaming Eagles), hire the head coach (fans watched live streamed interviews and voted), scout and pick players (fans nominated players to attend combines, watched livestreams and voted on who to draft), and call all the offensive plays in real-time.

The NYT wrote an article about their proof of concept in 2017.

This is the most elaborate “proof of concept” that we’ve ever seen!

And it worked. In their first year, the Screaming Eagles gathered a fan base far beyond Utah, eager to get involved in the game. They saw 100x the streams of other teams in the league.

Beyond the sheer audacity and perseverance to pull something like this off, we are excited about FCF for a number of reasons:

Super engaged fans

Fantasy Football and video games have created a large number of fans who know that they can make decisions about players and plays as well as the owners and coaching staff can. In fact they put their money where their mouths are with the average fantasy football player spending $556 each season on fantasy.

Twitch, the platform enhancing viewing experiences

Twitch has created an expectation of interactivity and fan involvement that traditional sports cannot currently fulfill. Twitch made up 75% of the live-streaming market in 2019 and has over 15M daily active users who average 95 minutes per day. FCF will work with Twitch to create a new sports experience for their extremely engaged audience, fully integrated into the Twitch Extension Platform.

Celebrities are the team owners

Traditional sports teams need to sell tickets, so they need to be based in a city. FCF teams aren’t tied to a specific metro, so they were able to be creative about the gravitational center of a team. The league has lined up Mike Tyson, Marshawn Lynch, Quavo, and Richard Sherman, among others, as team owners for its first season. At Lightspeed we know the power of influencers. Having these stars as team owners creates an opportunity to build fan bases in a whole new way, unbounded by geography.

It’s a large market

Football fans’ fanatical love for the sport also translates into big business. The fantasy sports vertical is a $13.9bn market globally and is expected to reach $33bn by 2025. Global eSports revenues are expected to top 1 billion in 2020, mostly from media rights and sponsorship. The NFL itself made $15 billion in revenue in 2019 and the average value of NFL teams is $2.86B with the Dallas Cowboys being the most highly valued at $5B.

FCF’s inaugural season kicks off in February 2021 — more details on how to play are available here. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome FCF to the Lightspeed family as they reinvent sports and entertainment.

By Jeremy Liew and Mercedes Bent

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