Sohrob Farudi

In their quest to hook audiences, professional sports leagues have been exploring more dynamic, increasingly interactive experiences. Creating this type of immediacy on an unprecedented level spurred Sohrob Farudi and his co-founders to create the Los Angeles-based Fan Controlled Football League. The FCFL will give fans the ability to determine management, personnel and coaching decisions for the indoor league’s eight franchises. Fans possessing FAN Tokens from the league may vote on such issues as the hiring of a general manager and coaches and even call plays during the twice-weekly games. The more tokens someone possesses, the more power he or she wields. The company is using a distributed ledger to ensure the votes are fair and accurate.

Next month the league enters its initial, preparatory phase with token holders selecting team names, logos and mascots. The nine-week, 18-game season will launch in early 2019. “Any sports fan, fantasy sports participant, video gamer, or esports enthusiast is a potential fan for our league,” says Farudi, 41-year-old veteran of multiple technology startups. 

ThirtyK: There is so much competition for the passionate sports and esports fan’s attention. Why will the FCFL draw them in?

Farudi: The global sports industry is a $1.3 trillion business. Fantasy sports generate $38 billion in annual  revenue in North America alone.  Video gaming is a $109 billion global business. We are at the intersection of these markets. They are huge and we believe that not only is there room for us, but our unique model is going to resonate with passionate fans to increase market growth.

“It’s a video game brought to life,” says Farudi, “and it’s what every football fan has been waiting for.”

ThirtyK: Who is your target audience?

Farudi: The FCFL combines the passion of live sports, the competition of fantasy sports, the engagement of video games and the global reach of esports. Any sports fan, fantasy sports participant, video gamer, or esports enthusiast is a potential fan for our league.

Calling Plays

ThirtyK: How does the FCFL work from the fan’s perspective? 

Farudi: Via an interactive video overlay we are building with our new partners, Twitch, or in our FCFL app, fans will call all the plays in real time for the eight teams in the league. The outcome of each fan vote will be relayed to the quarterback and executed on the field. In addition to play calling, the FCFL is putting fans in the general manager role for the first time in sports, allowing them to determine each team’s name, logo, coach and the players that make the roster via a fan-run draft. It’s a video game brought to life, and it’s what every football fan has been waiting for.

ThirtyK: Why opt for a distributed ledger network? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply sell shares in fiat currency? Can any fan get involved? 

Farudi: It could be easier, but the blockchain provides a unique level of transparency and authentication that we believe is critical for the success of the league. You do not need to purchase FAN Tokens. Any fan can earn them by interacting with the league. Watching games, placing votes, virtually any interaction might earn you additional FAN Tokens. Any fan can get involved. Anyone will be able to watch the game streams without identifying a team to support, without ever downloading our app, or without ever voting. They can watch like watching any other live sports event.

ThirtyK: Does a fan’s ability to influence decisions depend on the number of tokens he or she possesses?

Farudi: FAN Token accumulation does affect voting power. And fans’ voting power increases in real time. Each time I vote, that interaction earns me more voting power for the next vote.

ThirtyK: How are participating fans able to scout players? How can fans call new plays in the few seconds between plays?

Farudi: With our proof of concept team, the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles, we worked with HUDL [a service of Agile Sports Technologies] to provide fans with unprecedented access to watching player film and participating in the scouting process. Our fans did such a great job scouting and drafting that our quarterback was named Rookie of the Year, and the players they surrounded him with contributed to the third-ranked offense in the league. We will have an equally robust system for FCFL fans. As far as calling plays, we have developed a unique methodology that worked well with the Screaming Eagles. We averaged 19,000 play calls per game during the season. We are scaling up for the FCFL to handle far greater participation, but the voting will be seamless. Working with Twitch to stream all of our games and with IMG Productions [will help] us devise the best in-game system for integrating play calling with the game clock and play clock.

Other Sports and Challenges

ThirtyK: How long will the season last? Will there be a playoffs?

Farudi: There will be playoffs and a champion. We are planning a nine-week regular season.

ThirtyK: Where will the games take place and will fans be able to attend them live?

Farudi: All eight teams will be playing out of the same venue and there will be in-arena seating so fans can watch live, in person, as well as on Twitch. We anticipate creating a unique and energy-filled in-arena experience.

ThirtyK: Can this work for other sports? Are you contemplating expanding this to other sports? 

Farudi: FAN Tokens can most definitely work for other sports. We’ve also started a blog series in which we explore this topic. The first sport we looked at was baseball. And we have received inbound interest from existing baseball and soccer organizations. We have had conversations about cricket and other sports as well. Because of the borderless nature of FAN Tokens, they can be utilized by any existing sports league, team, governing organization or event globally as well as any new league or event. They can be deployed so that fans around the world can leverage their FAN Token power to make decisions, earn merchandise and unique experiences and generally engage in ways not really ever before possible.

ThirtyK: What are the main challenges you’re encountering? 

Farudi: Just getting to market fast enough. Our fans are exited and ready for the first season to start. But we want to be deliberate in how we scale the technology, develop the token mechanics and framework for our game production. As well, we are looking at building our own state of the art facility from which to broadcast all the league’s games and ancillary programming. All of these aspects take time. So we are trying to balance proceeding logically and efficiently with giving the fans what they want.

James Rubin
James Rubin has covered a range of business topics for such publications as the Economist Intelligence Unit, Forbes Insights and Adweek. His papers have been presented at World Economic Forum events. He was an associate editor at TheStreet and is the author of the "Urban Cyclist's Survival Guide."