It’s the ultimate fantasy for a fantasy sports fan: running an actual team—or at least helping to do it. And that’s exactly the dream that Project FANchise promises fans as it works toward the 2017 launch of the Salt Lake City Screaming Eagles in the Indoor Football League.
A group of investors led by co-founder and CEO Sohrob Farudi got the league’s approval last year to start an IFL expansion team, which would allow implementation of FANchise’s proprietary mobile platform that gives fans unparalleled access to and control of all front-office and coaching decisions of a team. That includes which coach to hire, what players make the roster and even who gets to don a cheerleader’s uniform.
For young males—the leading demographic for both online gaming and fantasy sports—FANchise promised a dose of heaven.
“I’m an entrepreneur on the tech side and in mobile, so I’m aware of the power of the device that’s in people’s hands now,” Farudi told brandchannel. “About 85 percent of peoole have a phone in their hands even in stadiums and arenas. So how do you bring these worlds together?”
With FANchise, that’s how. Farudi also managed to recruit a number of experienced and savvy pro-football figures including former NFL league and team executives and NFL Pro Bowlers Ahman Green and Al Wilson.
The Screaming Eagles are set to begin their season in February, but there’s lots of ground to cover in the meantime. Farudi talked with brandchannel about how FANchise is going to make fans’ fantasies come true.
— Project FANchise (@FANchise) July 25, 2016
— Project FANchise (@FANchise) July 24, 2016
bc: It’s quite a leap from the most involved game of Madden or fantasy football to what you’re doing with FANchise. How did you get there?
Sohrob Farudi: The idea was germinating for five or so years. I’m an avid football fan myself and a fantasy guy. I always wanted a team and to be involved with a team as a fan. And we’re seeing growth in fantasy and e-sports and gaming. It was never an “aha!” moment. I just watched things evolve.
bc: But getting control of an actual team? That’s an accomplishment.
Farudi: We had to pitch the IFL on the concept and all their owners and commissioner, and walk them through what we were going to do, with fans hiring the coach and the players. And to the league’s credit, they gave us their buy-in. You innovate or you die today—and they saw what was happening in mobile, social and digital and figured there should be an opportunity for someone to try it. I’ve surrounded the team with some great people; there’s a lot of football credibility in it. We have a good group of founders.
bc: So you say fans are actually going to hire the coach—how will that work?
Farudi: We have coaching candidates and they all had to agree to what we were doing, to the salary package and what the team could provide, and now we’re letting fans choose from 15 different candidates. We’ll do live-stream interviews on Facebook and YouTube. Fans will be able to watch the interviews and can crowdsource questions. The coaches had to buy into the fact that their interviews are out there for the world to see.
The top five guys rival any of the IFL or Arena Football League coaches; some have won big. They’re excited about the innovation and the platform that it will provide them and the players they’ll be able to recruit.
bc: What indications are you looking at for fan interest in FANchise so far?
Farudi: The average IFL game draws 4,000 to 5,000 people, and we’ve already got 40,000 people signed up to participate. We’ll be able to build the brand with a much bigger audience.
bc: What would interest someone like [former Green Bay Packers star running back Ahman] Green in FANchise?
Farudi: Ahman’s a gamer; he plays a lot of Twitch and is a Madden guy. We bridge that gap between the real world and the gaming world, so he was intrigued. And he’s a living legend. So part of what we’re building is this ability to give fans an in-person experience. You can’t get any closer to the game than you can in arena football.