January and February are a football fan’s favorite months on the calendar on the journey to Super Bowl Sunday. But after the big game, football fans have to wait months until another game is played. Those months can seem daunting.
Of course, start-up (and restarted) organizations like the XFL and the Alliance of American Football have tried to fill the gridiron void in the spring and summer but have fallen short. The USFL is also rebooting this spring.
A significantly different venture with a season under its belt is Fan Controlled Football, a 7-on-7 indoor professional football league built on big plays and entertainment while acting as a real-life video game to let fans call the plays.
In its second season, set to start April 16, the FCF aims to spotlight its immersive experience, celebrity combatants, a new arena, and Gen-Z lifestyle to set the league apart from its spring football competitors.
Their next steps: an NFT pre-launch Thursday, public sale Friday, and artwork reveal Monday of its Ballerz Collective line, which will put those NFT owners in control of one of four teams.
FCF Backed by Heavy Hitters
Team co-owners include current and retired NFL players Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman; other athletes like MLB pitcher and Big League Impact fantasy player Trevor May; television personalities like the NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund; media personalities like Rachel Lindsay; and even DJ Steve Aoki.
Players last year included 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
The FCF recently secured funding for Seasons 2 and 3 through a $40 million Series A round of investments led by Animoca Brands and Delphi Digital, venture capital firms specializing in cryptocurrency investments.
The funding also allows the league to expand the number of teams from four to eight. The original four teams (Beasts, Wild Aces, Zappers, and Glacier Boyz) will remain.
“FCF is like Madden in real life with real players."
As with any new project with this ambition and scale, investors and stakeholders can bring forward potentially revolutionary reasons for diving in and methods to help the game of football overall.
“I saw it as an opportunity to build a community around a new concept," Ekeler said. “I like the video game aspect of it. It’s a unique idea. I also saw it as an opportunity for players to put some film out there for these players to continue to pursue their dreams of playing football."
The four new teams will be NFT based to coincide with the FCF’s “Ballerz Collective" launch. The team names will change before the season starts, but as of now, the teams are Bored Ape Yacht Club, Gutter Cat Gang, Knights of Degen, and Team 8OKI.
With it, you’ll be able to make decisions on the team’s design, draft players, make play calls for your team on game day, and vote on league-wide matters. There are additional real-life benefits to it, such as VIP tickets to games, different in-person events, and game-worn memorabilia.
“One of the unique things about the FCF is that they’re able to move and pivot and be aggressive as these new technologies evolve, and that’s unlike any other sports league around the world," said Jack Settleman, creator and CEO of Snapback Sports and the Knights of Degen team. “It really makes you feel like you’re in a small group of people who have true ownership in the team."
Team owners are flocking in from various industries to try to catch some of the energy and growth potential.
“A big thing that appealed to me was kind of how out of the box it was,” May said. “Fans are more invested on different levels other than just liking the team or liking the players. That concept, right there, is the future of sports entertainment.”
- Click to read the full FCF Ballerz Collective Mint Guide below.
Controlling the Game as a Fan
The fans have a huge say in the league, from calling the plays on game day to drafting players to even deciding the design and name of the team. “They’re always trying to make the league better and listening to fan feedback."
The Ballerz Collective NFT offers the crypto space long-term hold with real-life value, according to AJ Khah, former full-time musician and now an Owner/Ambassador of Team Bored Apes.
“The fact that they have these actual in real-life perks compared to some of the other NFTs that are out that just have online perks, I think that’s the coolest part for me," he said.
Khah is considered one of the original fans of FCF, investing in original ownership of the Glacier Boyz. Khah became so involved in the league and creating content around the FCF that he became popular amongst fans and with the league for his trash talk.
Now, he’s advanced from fan ownership to owning a team.
“FCF is like Madden in real life with real players. I loved calling plays — I loved the drafting and everything about it," he said. “It just really spoke to me. I really felt like I was a part of the organization.
“I’ve never met a company that is more true to their tagline than FCF has been. I am so gracious and so thankful for it, just because it’s kind of like a dream come true."
How to Play Fan Controlled Football
- ON-FIELD: Fan Controlled Football is a 7-on-7 game played on a 50-yard field. Teams start at the 10-yard line and must drive 40 yards for a touchdown. Games are limited to one hour with no instant replays.
- TIMING: 2 halves that are 20 minutes each. Halftime is 6 minutes. Timeouts are 30 seconds and teams receive 2 timeouts per game (opportunity for fans to earn an additional timeout). Final minute of each half is played under special one minute timing rules. Following a conversion attempt, 45-second play clock begins for the ball to be spotted and put into play for a change of possession.
- ROSTERS/DRAFT: Every Wednesday, the fans vote on draft choices in a live player draft on Twitch. The team owners designate two franchise players, and the fans decide on one keeper after the first game. After each week of games, players then become eligible for the next live draft.
- CALLING PLAYS: You will use Twitch or the FCF app to select in-game plays. There will be selections available to pick run or pass, and then you will see four possible play options. Vote for the play you prefer, and you will then be alerted to which play won the vote, and you will see it executed in real-time.
- TD CONVERSION FORMAT: Fans choose individual matchups for unique 1-on-1 conversion showdowns. A wide receiver faces a defensive back, and the quarterback has three to five seconds to pass the ball. A successful conversion from the 10-yard line is good for two points, and a 5-yard conversion is worth one point.
- TWO-QB ATTACK: The backup quarterback just does not sit on the sidelines for the whole game in Fan Controlled Football. The second QB will come into the game on every third series, so you will have to select two quality passers when you are drafting.
- Rather than a coin flip, games start with rock, paper, scissors to determine initial possession.
- There are no field goals or punts.
- A “fifth down" will be available that fan bases can compete for during games.
- Also, in the same vein as the conversions, there will be a once per game “fourth-down showdown.”
FCF vs. USFL vs. XFL
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen various iterations of professional football leagues come and go. The hype at the announcement, the buildup before the first kickoff, some excitement for a few weeks, and then the downfall seemed to be the chain of events.
The Alliance of American Football (AAF) lasted for only eight weeks of regular season football before shutting down operations and filing for bankruptcy. The XFL, in its revival, lasted five weeks before the league suspended its season due to COVID-19. Shortly after, the XFL filed for bankruptcy.
While those leagues feature unique rules that made them unique when compared to the NFL, many of the league’s rules and settings closely derive from the NFL. To its projected advantage, FCF has its own lane with its real-life video-game style.
“I definitely see the FCF in its own category," Settleman said. “I think it would be naive to say that more football leagues coming up aren’t competitors, but I’ve always loved the way FCF has positioned themselves."
“I don’t know when we’ll get to a football saturation point," Frelund said. “I hope all of the leagues succeed. More football is great with me."
The XFL’s return is still a year away, but by possible coincidence, the FCF and USFL both kick off their seasons on the same day this year.
The USFL is owned by FOX Sports and will air on FOX and NBC throughout the season. And to make a big splash, the USFL signed Jeff Fisher as a head coach.
“I think the FCF could be complementary to all of them, and I also think we’re able to get a different audience," Frelund said. “An audience that’s a little younger, but that’s really engaged and really knows what they’re talking about."
What makes the FCF so unique is that they stream all of their games on Twitch, an interactive live streaming service for various types of content, but it is mainly used for gaming.
But going into next season, the FCF will also broadcast games on NBCLX, Peacock, and DAZN internationally, so there’s some traditional media backing via streaming.
There is an added benefit to the FCF playing simultaneously as the NFL. “In a year like this where the NFL is pulling people off the street, if they had actual game tape of live stuff, and they had just played last week, and an NFL team needs a new player, they could just pluck someone off an FCF squad."
FCF Season 1 Recap
- Season v1.0 kicked off on Feb. 13, 2021, and saw the Original Four go head-to-head in a four-game season. The Beasts finished at the top of the league with a 3-1 record, followed by the Wild Aces and Zappers at 2-2, and the Glacier Boyz last at 1-3.
- The fans voted for the Glacier Boyz to take on the top-seeded Beasts in the playoffs, but it appeared they made the wrong decision, as the No. 4 seed upset the Beasts. The Wild Aces took down the Zappers with ease in the other matchup.
- The league’s finals, the People’s Championship Game, was a Week 4 rematch in which the Wild Aces won 56-52. This game was no different, as it was a back-and-forth battle where the Wild Aces came out on top. 46-40, becoming the inaugural People’s Champion.
Controlling Your Career
The dream of playing in the NFL is so hard to achieve. A small percentage of players reach the Division I level, and an even smaller percentage get to the NFL. For players that struggle to make it initially, there are alternative routes in the form of other leagues. P.J. Walker (Carolina Panthers), D’Ernest Johnson (Cleveland Browns), and Younghoe Koo (Atlanta Falcons) are some recent NFL players who made a name for themselves in other leagues.
While the FCF a significantly different breed of football, it still can provide a path to the NFL.
“The FCF gave me the opportunity to meet with the agency [IFA] I’m currently with," Travis Toivonen said. “Then my agency ultimately got me into the University of Minnesota Pro Day, where the Seattle Seahawks found me."
Toivonen started all four years at the University of North Dakota, where he had 139 catches for 1,719 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, before he could showcase his skills at his Pro Day, COVID-19 hit, and he went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft.
After being out of football for about a year, Toivonen signed with the FCF.
By the end of Season v1.0, Toivonen was one of the best players in the league.
The FCF fans rate the players based on skills and scouting reports. Toivonen was tagged with a 9.4, which was second-best in the FCF behind former NFL star wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Toivonen led the FCF in yards and touchdowns during the regular season and finished with 19 catches for 287 yards and five touchdowns. Toivonen was also one of the first players that were franchise tagged by the fans.
“It was kind of like the fans showing faith in me, and being one of the first guys to get that franchise tag gave me a lot of confidence and showed me the fans had faith in my game," he said.
The smaller field forced players to be more precise, and in the case of wide receivers, the one-on-one extra points against a defensive back helped players work on their 1-on-1 skills against a defender.
Even if making it to the NFL isn’t the end goal, the league is still a great opportunity for players to learn to market themselves.
“I think it really honed in on quickness and being able to go up and get the ball and win 1-on-1 matchups," Toivonen said. “Scouts look for a wide receiver’s ability to win matchups and to be able to have success going one-on-one against a defender."
“That was something I was able to improve on during my time with the FCF, and that has ultimately helped me in my path to the NFL."
“While I was there, I was able to learn a lot more about marketing myself on social media, using platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, and just promoting myself," Toivonen said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to interact with others on social media, interact with their fans, and build their personal brand."
After success in FCF, Toivonen signed with the Seattle Seahawks and played with them in the preseason. After being cut from the Seahawks, Toivonen signed with the New York Giants as a member of their practice squad and is signed to a Reserve/Future contract.
“I think if he gets a minute in an NFL game, playing in the FCF is 100 percent worth it," May said. “That storyline is super exciting for me as an athlete that he got that opportunity and it was partially from having this league exist."
“He’s a big, long wide receiver and he was one of the best. I was getting Adam Thielen vibes from him."
Will FCF Welcome Sports Betting?
Frelund covers player projections, game analytics, and fantasy football for the NFL Network, and she sees the FCF as an even more engaging experience than fantasy football.
“In fantasy, you’re really focused on the output. Meaning if you need 18 points, you don’t care how Jalen Hurts, for example, scores your points. You just need the points from him. And you don’t care if the team wins unless you’re an Eagles fan,” she said.
“It’s not just based on a numerical output in the FCF, it’s wins and losses. You actually know which routes your X receiver is running.”
Frelund said the FCF is “definitely the next evolution of how to be immersed in a game while you’re watching the game, how to be really involved.”
Much like fantasy football thrived based on its powerful social components, Frelund believes the FCF can grow through sports betting, which can also stir connections with other fans.
FCF 2022 Schedule
FCF’s 2022 schedule provided courtesy of DAZN, which will help broadcast Fan Controlled Football along with NBCLX and Peacock.
- SAT 2/5/22: FCF COMBINE: Orlando
- SAT 2/26/22: FCF COMBINE: Atlanta
- SAT 4/2/22: All-Star Game/Skills Challenge
- SAT 4/9/22: Preseason
- SAT 4/16/22: Week 1 gameday
- SAT 4/23/22: Week 2 gameday
- SAT 4/30/22: Week 3 gameday
- SAT 5/7/22: Week 4 gameday
- SAT 5/14/22: Week 5 gameday
- SAT 5/21/22: Week 6 gameday
- SAT 5/28/22: Week 7 gameday
- SAT 6/4/22: Playoffs
- SAT 6/11/22: Championship
“I think it’s more about community, and that’s where FCF really nails all of those aspects,” Frelund said. “If you have something invested in your outcome, you’re having that interactive experience."
“It is giving you something back. Sports betting, in general, allows you to connect on a deeper level. It’s about the community and shared understanding of ‘my knowledge is better than your knowledge.’”
Frelund said she believes top sportsbooks, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, are naturally positioned to get involved with the FCF.
Last season, Bovada issued odds on the FCF Championship Game. Frelund also pointed out that legal sportsbooks were issuing lines on the AAF. Once the popularity of the FCF rises, she thinks that the league will gain a significant hold in the sports betting world.
“If there are enough eyeballs to watch the FCF and enough people in different states where sports betting is legal, I think they will get involved,” she said. ” The books are trying to make money, so there has to be demand. They will supply the lines when there’s enough demand for it.”
The FCF’s CEO, Sohrob C. Farudi, recently told OSDB Sports that the FCF would soon make an announcement regarding their sports betting objectives.
Settleman also indicated that the league has already laid the groundwork to develop strong sports betting connections.
“The original plan actually for the FCF that most people don’t know about was to be in Las Vegas, so they have a relationship with the gaming commission. Sports betting will absolutely be a factor,” he said.
“I think it’s best when it’s the outside setting the odds, because then there’s no influence, especially in an interesting situation with the fans calling plays, so I would imagine you go and partner with sportsbooks. You put traders on who set those odds, and there will be a lot of learning, there’s no doubt about that.”
What FCF’s Future Holds
Though the FCF is still some ways away from where they want to be, the league continues to take steps in the right direction. As an up-and-coming league, the FCF will try many different things - some ideas might work, while others will fail.
So the question remains: What does the FCF need to do to grow in the right direction?
Building a brand new, state-of-art arena definitely helps. The league recently unveiled renderings of the FCF’s new home for Season v2.0 at Atlanta’s Pullman Yards. The arena has 1,500 seats and the build makes the FCF the first non-NFL American football league in history to construct its own purposely built stadium/arena.
Games will stream on Twitch for the NFT-centric audience and, new to this year, will air on NBCLX and Peacock, providing an avenue to bring new eyes and attention to the league.
“One of the unique things about the FCF is that they’re able to move and pivot and be aggressive as these new technologies evolve," Settleman said. “That’s unlike any other sports league around the world.
Khah had issues with originally investing in the Glacier Boyz, so he threw a Hail Mary and reached out to Farudi. To Khah’s surprise, not only did Farudi answer him, but he also reached out to other owners of the Glacier Boyz to help Khah get his full stake in the team.
“When the owner of the entire league listens to you, hears you out, acts on it, and reaches out to his own friends to make sure that a random dude, who’s just a fan, can be an owner, it really spoke to me," Khah said.
An obstacle any league faces is how to market its players and connect them to a budding audience. Frelund said a league’s fan base “needs to like the players, understand them, hear about their story, and know their struggles."
“The FCF needs to watch what the Premier Lacrosse League is doing," Settleman said. “They’re doing a great job on focusing on the storylines of the players, making sure they have personalities."
The $40 million investment, expanding the league from 4 to 8 teams, the NFT mint, and a TV deal signal a goal for team and fan owners alike to speculate on major growth while cultivating an interactive experience.
“What we’re doing here with the FCF is allowing you to play a game, and you’re part of a community," Frelund said.
Ballerz Collective Launch Guide
- PRESALE: Feb. 3, 5 p.m. ET
- PUBLIC SALE: Feb. 4
- BALLERZ ARTWORK REVEAL: Feb. 7
- Go to FCF dot com and connect your cryptocurrency wallet to purchase Ballerz.
- The NFT will come in the form of an FCF Ballerz, unique and customizable avatars with more than 150 traits and gear items available.
- Each team will receive 8,888 Ballerz each in Season v 2.0. The presale window opens on February 3, while the public sale begins on February 4. The cost of a Ballerz is 0.1776 ETH (currently equal to $436.71 USD).
- All wallets that hold a Bored Ape, Mutant Ape, Kennel Club, Gutter Cat, Gutter Rat, Gutter Dog, Gutter Pigeon, Knight, 888 Inner Circle, or Aoki NFT are eligible for a 50 percent discount at 0.0888 ETH (currently equal to $218.35 USD) and can mint during the presale.
Editor’s Note: Jack Settleman is a frequent content contributor to The Game Day.