Updated: Jul 19
I initially wrote off Fan Controlled Football as a gimmicky knockoff of the NFL. Man, was I wrong.
What is Fan Controlled Football?
This 2-minute video explains FCF better than I ever could. Watch the entire video to understand the general concept and then we'll continue.
First impression - The inefficiencies of Web2
To be honest I didn't care to learn about this league at all until I heard NFTs were involved. I've always been a hater of alternative football leagues because they're usually just a knockoff version of the NFL with a few minor rule changes and less talented players.
While this is partially true for the FCF, its biggest difference from the NFL is the experiential nature of its games. Rather than just watching a football game and cheering on your team - fans are able to call the plays, draft players, and make many other decisions which directly effect the outcome of each game.
In a way, FCF has created a real life video game for its fans. Think of it like Madden franchise mode but with real players.
The FCF is built around allowing fans to manage team decisions. Although it sounds great for fans, I noticed this can cause organizational inefficiencies for teams that are publicly managed. Public teams have no barrier to entry and are free to manage by signing up in the FCF app and choosing a team.
The issue here is that if a large enough wave of new managers join the public team and decides to vote differently, it could easily dilute any plans the existing fans already had in place. This makes strategizing for public teams much less effective.
Another important thing to consider is that people don't place high value on things they receive for free.
Will you get emotionally invested into a random football team with players that you know nothing about? Probably not.
It's difficult to become emotionally invested into something you're not financially invested in - especially if you feel like your vote doesn't count.
What I'm trying to say is the biggest issue with FCF's public teams is that their communities have no sense of ownership since fans do not share aligned incentives and managerial voting is not scarce.
FCF set out to address these issues in its 2nd season with the expansion of the league, adding 4 new teams controlled entirely by NFT communities.
The Ballerz Collective
Owning a Ballerz Collective NFT gives you the ability to manage one of the NFT-controlled teams in Fan Controlled Football.
The 4 NFT teams include:
Bored Ape FC
Knights of Degen
8oki (Steve Aoki & 888)
Kingpins (Gutter Gang)
You do not need to own a parent NFT in order to buy a Ballerz Collective NFT for their team (i.e. you can join Bored Ape FC without actually having to own a Bored Ape).
Ballerz NFT stats
Launch date: February 4, 2022
Mint price: 0.088 ETH
Bored Ape FC: 7500
Knights of Degen: 5000
How do I join an NFT team?
Purchase an Ballerz NFT from one of the 4 NFT teams
Connect your wallet and start voting
Ape Tales: The Ballerz Collective - Apes
Did I mention I graduated college with a degree in Sport Management? Its probably hard to guess considering I spend more time in crypto than 99% of people on this planet.
Getting a job within a professional sports organization is a difficult task, especially for someone with little to no connections in the industry. It's an even harder task to break into a team's inner circle and be trusted enough to handle the team's operations. This is something I learned firsthand from working in the front office of an NHL team a few years ago while finishing my degree.
Would you do grunt work for 10 years just for a chance of getting a position that allows you to make a real difference within a sports team? I can't speak for you but as much as I love sports my answer was a resounding no.
The odds for winning a bet like this (getting the job) paired with the amount of time it would take was much too risky for me. Time is the most valuable resource in this world and is not something I want to wager with these odds.
The FCF's NFT-controlled teams bypass this bureaucratic wall and allow fans to directly influence their favorite team's operational and gameday decisions. This is like a community-run game of Madden franchise mode but with real life players. The league takes care of everything that would be a headache for the average person (events, payroll, partnerships, etc.) so the fans can focus solely on handling the managerial decisions of whichever team they choose to support.
Based on my experience within the sports industry, I saw this as an opportunity to reach a previously unattainable dream job. Rather than take a chance investing my time to get a certain role within a pro sports team, now I can invest my money to skip the wait.
I bought 150 Ballerz NFTs and became the largest shareholder (2%) of the Bored Ape Football Club.
Even though I don't technically have a role within the team, I can have a set amount of influence when it comes to the team's operational decisions.
Its not 1:1 but the closest comparison I can make to Ballerz NFTs is like owning shares of the Green Bay Packers. In case you aren't familiar with the Packers, they are the only publicly-owned team in the NFL.
So what do people actually get for owning each asset?
Owning Green Bay Packers stock
Owning Ballerz NFT
- Elect Board of Directors
- Draft/trade/sign players
- Call plays during game
- In-game power-ups
Invitation to the corporation's annual meeting
Additional benefits based on NFT's traits
Potential for airdrops and other integrations (composability)
What I laid out as the Ballerz NFT utility above is only applicable to this very moment. As time goes on, the benefits of holding these NFTs will likely change as the FCF expands. This is why I always stress how important composability is for NFTs.
First Impression - Drafting
Drafting is smooth and fun. I think the NFT teams really shine in this area as compared to the public teams because the former is more organizationally efficient. NFT teams have the ability to utilize token-gated Discords to communicate much quicker and efficiently than teams with infinite management spots and no barrier to entry.
First Impression - Games
The games are surprisingly entertaining and actually become very emotionally charged when picking plays. The most annoying thing is when you pick a play that you think will be great but the majority votes for a different play that ends up having a negative outcome.
After seeing the games, my theory of NFT teams dominating publicly run teams was reinforced. It now seems apparent that the NFT-controlled teams make smarter decisions both on and off the field.
Risks / Risk management
The risks with this bet primarily lie in whether or not the league goes under. I like to rationalize this risk by thinking that NFTs could have a longer lifespan than the league regardless if football is being played or not. A P2E game is apparently being developed for FCF so if the league ends up going under I think there's a possibility for them to pivot to purely digital if absolutely necessary.
This makes me really interested in what their plans for the P2E game will be. Axie Infinity operates on a fairly complex ecosystem of in-game tokens and currencies. This makes me wonder how ambitious the FCF team will go in their game's tokenomics.
Marketing will be a difficult part of this league. It's hard to get people interested in non-NFL football leagues unless they have a compelling reason to join. That incentive is obvious for owners of NFT collections that have a team, but if I didn't have one there's much less reason for being a dedicated FCF fan. How can FCF get people with no ties to the league involved? This will be the most difficult task for them to overcome but I feel like creating a show around the league like Hard Knocks could pique the interest of a more general population of football fans. FCF's Twitch streams are entertaining but let's be honest; Twitch attracts a younger crowd than I suspect many of the people buying Ballerz NFTs fit into.
Cool things I didn't expect
FCF received a $40m investment from Animoca Brands & Delphi Digital
FCF built and owns their own stadium fully dedicated to FCF (includes practice field)
Players are given housing & meals
Company is focused on keeping players happy/having fun
Fan Controlled Basketball is the league's next project
Fan Controlled Football opened my eyes to the power of NFTs when it comes to enabling communities to influence content in real-time.
If you know me you've probably heard me preach that fan controlled media is the future of NFTs. This is 100% true and I'll stand by that.
Will FCF be the first successful implementation of this? We'll see. What I do know is that there is a big market at the intersection of Sports x NFTs so it's possible this could be one of the best shots.
That said, I don't think the NFL could accomplish what FCF already has in regards to incorporating NFTs into their league.
The NFL isn't designed to get the community involved.
Current NFL teams are too large to introduce NFT-controlled counterparts, not to mention the league would have way too many teams to keep up with. There isn't enough money or resources within NFT communities to properly compete with NFL teams either.
After watching my first season of Fan Controlled Football I came to the realization that FCF isn't trying to compete with the NFL at all. FCF does things entirely different than your typical professional sports league and I think this will help them create a niche around fan controlled sports.
The key takeaway for me is that FCF has gamified the experience of watching football.
Every successful NFT project knows that their product should be designed around it's users. FCF hits the nail on the head here through their UX by enabling users to manage the specific decisions they find most important. This changes the whole experience of football from watching it to actually being a part of the team and winning alongside them.
This is not just a bet on fan controlled football, this is a bet on fan controlled sports.
I think the odds are stacked against me in this trade based on the past successes (or lack thereof) of football leagues not named the NFL. This trade could easily go to zero if the league goes under. That said, the upside is crazy if fan controlled sports ends up catching on - this will be the most difficult part.
I think expanding their NFT ecosystem will be an important strategy for FCF to capitalize on in order to bring more loyal viewers to Fan Controlled Football. They should probably narrow their focus from trying to cater to general football fans (public teams) to a smaller niche like Web3 football fans.
I entered this trade expecting not to make any money just based on the previous history of other pro football leagues. Most don't even make it past 1 season so the fact that FCF is on season 2 and has enough funding for a 3rd season makes me feel a lot more comfortable.