What’s Next For FCF?

In short, the Indoor and Arena Football scene of 2023 has been a roller coaster ride. From the IFL getting its title game on CBS Sports Network for the next three seasons to Antonio Brown’s Albany Empire antics, there has hardly been a dull moment in the world of 50-yard football. The Arena Football League also announced its return in 2024 to add to this chaos.

One league I did not mention yet is Fan Controlled Football. All seemed to go well in Fan Controlled Football’s first two seasons as the play was exciting and celebrity owners and big-name players seemed to keep interest going. However, last week, the league announced intentions to forgo a 2023 season due to financial constraints

While FCF did several things right on their own, an undeniable source of its success was lack of competition. In 2021, FCF was the only game in town except for sub-FBS football. FCF provided a fun alternative to college football during that Winter and early Spring. Since their season ended on March 20, they missed the start of the Indoor Football League season by three weeks and avoided The Spring League season (remember those days?). The following year, the league may have made a fatal mistake. 

The 2022 FCF season started on April 16, the very same night the USFL made its triumphant return after nearly 40 years of dormancy. The XFL had not yet returned and the IFL would not start until March 12. Additionally, there was no Spring season college football to compete with like during the previous year. Still, the FCF positioned itself to compete directly with the USFL. In retrospect, this decision looks grave. 

The alternative football scene continues to grow as both legitimate and illegitimate leagues announcing their presence seemingly every day. The Arena Football League is another competitor to Fan Controlled Football with a strong reputation. The presence of another competitor, especially in the 50-yard game, may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

Fan Controlled Football offers arguably the most unique and fan-engaging experience in sports, but at the end of the day, it is still just football at its foundation. While engaging fans, the league does not have home markets to draw support from, using a hub model. Unlike the USFL, Fan Controlled Football lacks the backing of two over-the-air networks to make up for not having each team in their home markets. 

The best bet for Fan Controlled Football would be to agree to a television contract with a TV partner desperate for live content. Recently, The CW has pursued the live sports business, stepping up as the prospective TV partner for the proposed Cincinnati Chili Bowl and broadcasting LIV Golf. Scripps Sports is another TV partner that could align itself with FCF, the emerging distributor that has TV deals with the WNBA to distribute Friday Night national TV games on Ion and as the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ primary local TV partner

Fan Controlled Football has made its product accessible for viewers by broadcasting its games on Twitch in its first two seasons. The league should extend this principle to linear TV as this partnership works two-fold, giving networks live sports inventory and increasing revenue. 

While the Indoor Football League has made its games accessible on YouTube, they recognized the reputation and exposure boost gained from partnering with a reputable TV partner by granting CBS Sports Network the rights to air the IFL Championship Game. Fan Controlled Football should take a similar approach. 

Additionally, the league may want to call a less competitive market home. In their one year in Atlanta, FCF competed for attention with the Atlanta Hawks and that year’s defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Placing themselves in a mid-sized city that is easy to travel to and free from competition from major leagues such as Atlantic City, New Jersey or Providence, Rhode Island could significantly boost in-person attendance. 

Fan Controlled Football has revolutionized how fans watch and interact with football. However, if they fail to act wisely in preparation for the 2024 season, they may become a mere footnote in the long history of alternative football leagues.

Leave a Reply