The notion of giving fans in the U.S. more say in the pro sports they are watching continues to grow in various shapes and sizes of experimentation. There are two football leagues; the indoor Fan Controlled Football League and the outdoor Your Call Football, which both are going to try and let fans have a say in the goings on on the field, but what about a stake in the ownership and governance of a team, like happens in the club system in Europe for soccer in many cases.
Even if you own shares of the only publicly controlled professional sports team in the U.S., the Green Bay Packers, you don’t have much of an actual say in ownership, and other entities in sports like Mixed Martial Arts and minor league basketball have tried to give the “power to the fans,” with little, really no, long term success.
However a soccer club with a strong local following and tradition is going to take a shot at it, playing off of a change in the securities reform law in 2016.
The team is Chattanooga Football Club, and it plays in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), which is sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) as an affiliate of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), essentially the fourth tier of what is called the American Soccer Pyramid.
However CFC has found a niche for success like some of the other teams now in the NPSL (one of which by the way is the New York Cosmos), and on Thursday the team announced a limited opportunity to become an owner in the club. Proceeds from the limited offering of 8,000 shares will support the club’s move from amateur to professional players and year-round operation.
The club has been around since 2009, and has drawn nearly 350,000 fans to its games at Finley Stadium over the course of the last ten seasons. In 2019, the club will play an extended season with professional players in the NPSL Founders Cup, and fully launch the league in 2020, with professional players.
“Since our first year, our expectation has been to offer our fans shares in the club, so we are very excited to finally do this,” said Chattanooga Football Club board member Krue Brock in a release. “For ten years, we’ve been Chattanooga’s team, so being able to offer fans shares so that they have a voice in the direction of the club is perfectly aligned with who we are. Think Green Bay Packers and you understand the path we are on.”
The idea, it seems, is to give the power to the people who support the club, and bring in a larger, more diverse fan base outside of Chattanooga, where they have thrived. “The American sports landscape is dominated by a relatively small group of very wealthy owners,” added Tim Kelly, club chairman. “We feel this could be a real game-changer to connect communities across the country with teams they love in a deep and meaningful way. By offering our fans ownership and re-organizing as a public benefit corporation, we are permanently committing ourselves to Chattanooga. We love this city and will never leave it.”