Image courtesy of CBS Sports
By Jack Cherico
No less than three days after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their Super Bowl boat party, the well-known sports television network SportsCenter posted a video on their Instagram of highlights from the “Fan Controlled Football League.” I, and many other football fans, saw this and asked, “What the heck is that?”.
At first glance, it is just another spring football league that is trying to get off the ground, similar to the Alliance of American Football (AAF, now defunct) and the XFL (inaugural season canceled due to COVID-19 and recently purchased by Dwayne Johnson). Upon further inspection, this is not your standard football league, and instead of the business model of copying the NFL, Fan Controlled Football is a whole different breed.
In 2015, an arena football team called the Screaming Eagles had the fans design the logo and jerseys, recruit local players, hired a coach, and even went so far as to pick the beer on tap at the games. The fan-controlled play calling technology led the team to a 3rd ranked offense in the league, and commissioner Ray Austin, a former NFL defensive back, worked to build the idea. They are very stout in their belief that the fans will improve everything, and if something is not as good, they will work with the people who dislike it.
Run Down and Rules
This league is the first of its kind, where fans call the plays via the streaming app Twitch. The company is centered around a system called fan IQ, which determines the power you have to call plays. The more successful plays you call, the more fan IQ you have, and the more weight your vote gets. The play calling system is also revolutionary and is exceptionally creative. On Twitch, and in the FCF app, you’ll see Run or Pass when your team is on offense. The fan picks one option, and then they’ll see four diagramed play options. You choose your favorite, then get notified which play won the vote. Then, the play will occur in real-time, and your idea comes to life. This system is perfect for the guy who sits on his couch and thinks he knows better than a Super Bowl-winning coach.
All games are streamed on Twitch on Saturday, and they are played as a 7v7 on a 50-yard field, three-person offensive line. There is no kicking or special teams; the offense starts on the 10-yard line and drives 40 yards for a touchdown. An exciting rule is that an extra point is a 1v1 between wide receiver and defensive back. Austin wanted the games not to be as long as the NFL, so there are a running clock and 1-hour games. The league is garnering comparisons to real-life fantasy football because there are some similarities. The fans draft a defensive unit and offensive line unit for each team, not individual players, similar to fantasy football. However, unlike fantasy football, it matters a lot more because the plays you call rely on these units’ strength.
The idea of a backup QB does not exist in the FCF. Fans will choose their starting QB every game, but the second QB will play every third possession. This is meant for new players to see the field, as they want to give some attention to players who haven’t hit stardom in the NFL yet. My favorite rule is that once you choose your team, you can’t switch teams, or else you have to make a new account and give up all your fan IQ. I like this rule because it will cultivate an appreciation for your team, something other leagues struggle with, as most people will pick the best team and bandwagon when another becomes good.
Another strength of the league is the celebrities who own the Teams: the glacier boys, wild aces, the beasts, and the zappers. The glacier boys are owned by rapper Quavo, NFL cornerback Richard Sherman, and YouTube star Deestroying. The Wild aces are owned by NFL running back Austin Ekeler, social media personality Greg Miller, and Jack Settleman, owner of SnapBack sports, a sports Snapchat account. The beasts are owned by former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, WNBA player Renee Montgomery, and WWE wrestler Miro. Finally, the Zappers are owned by sports comedian Bob Menery, Mets pitcher Trevor May and Ronnie Singh, community liaison for 2k sports, also known as Ronnie 2k.
Notable Players in The League:
As all spring football leagues do, the league may suffer from the dearth in talent compared to the NFL. Most of the guys who play in spring leagues have been trying to break into the NFL for years and just aren’t talented enough or have faced injuries. Some notable players signed to the FCF are Johnny Manziel, a former Heisman trophy winner at Texas A and M and Browns quarterback, who has struggled with addiction and partying, which got him suspended from the NFL multiple times. Another player is Damon Sheehy Guiseppi, a former Browns receiver who lied his way into a tryout when he was homeless but did not make the 53 man roster. The final exciting player is Deondre Francois, former Florida state QB who couldn’t break into the NFL.
I have high hopes for the league, and although they may have trouble getting off the ground, they have many great ideas, and the FCF’s ambition is excellent to see. With more money and sponsorships coming into the league, such as NFL running back Dalvin Cook, and former boxer Mike Tyson, the FCF will hopefully grow and become a household name.