I was able to speak with Patrick Dees, a man who in my mind is one part of one of the most revolutionary groups in sports and entertainment history. Everyone who has ever watched a football game with any sort of passion invested has undoubtedly shouted, and likely sworn at the TV. All because you as a fan didn’t have the input to call plays, pick players, or make team decisions in crucial moments. Well, those days are gone, and in case you have been living under a rock…have been gone for two years now.
Introducing the FCF
A league was formed by a group of football fans, that first had the idea on a smaller scale. They originally began as Project Fanchise and began to lay roots in the arena football game by starting a franchise in the Indoor Football League. The fans were in on the coaching interviews due to live streams, they were brought in on play-calling, and the fans loved the new way of interacting with the game they love.
This is how the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles were born. Before long one team turned to two. But the approach and goals of the second team were slightly different. Project Fanchise decided to add a second team, “We bought the Crush, the idea was we were going to show other teams in the league how to transition from traditional to fan controlled.” This second franchise was the Colorado Crush which were in existence for just one season.
Ultimately it became clear that the IFL didn’t see things the way Project Fanchise did. So instead of playing by another league’s rules and limiting their vision, they set out to create something different altogether. Dees would say the USFL, and the XFL are just “NFL lite” with their game play too similar to the NFL version to truly stand apart.
Power to the Fans
They knew that not only did they not want to be the “NFL lite” they didn’t want to be the same product as the Indoor Football League either. That would simply result in another arena league competing for an audience in an already saturated marketplace. So instead, they decided to virtually reinvent football as we know it.
Allowing fans to call plays, earn points, climb a leader board, build rosters, and even help choose the direction the league goes going forward at times is a form of interaction sports fans have been begging for. I don’t think any of us quite put this vision on paper or, on a PowerPoint like Project Fanchise. As Patrick would say “It lived on a PowerPoint presentation for so long…” just a plan based on a dream, as they tried to make it happen in real-time.
With the foundation built, and carefully inspected over time while other leagues were shuttering, and canceling seasons, the Fan Controlled Football League gambled and won. They launched their league in 2021 under peak Covid-19 restrictions, week after week they set viewership ratings, and they saw more and more fans start to turn their direction. The league was finally realized, but as Patrick would say: “playing in Infinite Energy Arena was awesome, but that wasn’t what was in my head”, “we wanted something distressed, kind of urban, industrial, graffiti feel.”
Searching for the Perfect Venue
The Company contracted to help the FCF set up season 2, and brought in different images to help the group choose the next venue for their league including still shots from the movies Bad Boys. This led to the ultimate choice to use Pullman Yards. This led to the culmination of the vision that led Patrick to say “I get choked up just thinking about it” when he was talking about how it all came together.
Pullman Yards to me is like a venue right out of the game NFL Street. Graffiti art, a bar in the endzone (inspired by the Budweiser Events Center in Colorado), and many different touches led to the exact vision they had spoken about for over a decade before it came to reality.
If you consider Season 1.0 as the Fan Controlled Football League knocking on the door, then Season 2.0 was them kicking the door in, and season 3.0…they’re going to bring the whole house down. When asked about the possibility of changes in the future of FCF he is quick to point out “exciting new things in the technology aspect” but chose to breeze right over the question about the FCF eventually moving outdoors.
Could this be an admission that this idea is being tossed around behind the scenes? Obviously every business especially in the entertainment industry wants to be able to release their own news on their terms. So it’s no surprise he didn’t delve into specific details. However, a wise man once said, “something I’ve learned from listening to interviews, what they don’t say, says something.”
Let’s face it the arena style of football is popular, but it’s never reached the heights of the NFL, and you could argue that even the original three year run of the USFL was more successful than arena ball. With that being the case, is there a chance that the FCF see’s this, and considers an eventual move to the outdoor 11 vs 11 game? You can’t rule anything out with the FCF.
In a recent fan poll, roughly 80% of the people who voted said they would prefer an outdoor version of the Fan Controlled Football League.
They have changed the game as we know it, and are now looking next to basketball for a way to change the next sport their ownership group loves. Patrick is quick to point out “we are looking into other sports that are more conducive to the fan control aspect.” With that being said, 7 vs 7 Fan Controlled Football was just the start, who knows where this wild ride ends up, but this writer will be following along on all the twists and turns.
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