Zwiller: Check out Fan Controlled Football
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, March 22, 2021
This weekend, like many of you, I got to watch some great games, some high-flying offenses, strong defensive stands and a come-from-behind win that was truly exciting. Unlike most of you, I’m not talking about March Madness; I’m talking about Fan Controlled Football, the latest startup football league. The league just finished up its first-ever season, and I’d like to give you a recap of the season and maybe convince you why you should tune in for the second season.
How it works
One of the main reasons you probably haven’t heard of the FCF is because it is solely available on Twitch. For those of you who don’t know, Twitch is an online live-streaming platform where you can find anything from Call of Duty to Mario, including the FCF. The league has seen incredible growth on Twitch. It is the fastest-growing sports channel, the second most-watched sports channel and has had more than 7.5 million viewers. The good thing about streaming the FCF on Twitch is it doesn’t limit viewership; you don’t need a subscription. If you have internet and a computer, you can watch these games.
When you tune into the FCF, you know you are about to watch something different from an NFL game. The games don’t begin with the traditional coin toss but rather rock-paper-scissors, as was voted on by the fans. The games themselves are just as different as the opening rock-paper-scissors; they are a 7-on-7 on only a 50-yard field, allowing quick drives and high-scoring games. Due to this small field, the league doesn’t have any kickoffs, punts or field goals. Teams start with the ball on their 10-yard line, and PAT are 1-on-1s for 1 or 2 points. The games also tend to be a lot shorter than NFL games; there are only two 20-minute halves, and the halves move along fast as there aren’t a lot of clock stoppages. If you like watching football but want games that have a bit more action and more scoring, this is the league for you.
Making it a fans league
Fans don’t just decide rules like the rock-paper-scissors rule or that a catch need only have one foot. Any fan who downloads the FCF app can choose the plays the players will then run. This led to an interesting evolution for the league; fans originally called a lot of passing plays. As the season went on, there was a noticeable change to calling running plays. Fans can also go beyond just calling plays, they can vote for which players they want to draft, and owners can franchise-tag critical players to their team. That might not sound too engaging because, in the NFL, the draft and franchise tag only happens once a year. In the FCF, this happens every single Wednesday, allowing you to react to each player’s performance every single week. And franchise tags aren’t limited to the one owner who owns the team. Anyone who buys a share in one of the four teams can become an owner. This is truly a league that is fan controlled.
Fan involvement doesn’t just happen on game days and draft days; the FCF has a whole lineup of content. There are shows titled “Talkin’ Bout Practice” and “Tape Don’t Lie,” in which fans get to break down films of both practice and game tape alongside coaches and players. “Deep Fade” is the show where fans can get to know the players they are drafting and coaching. You get to learn about their life and how they got to the FCF in a barbershop. Some talk show format shows, like “Players Club” and “The Fan Controlled Show,” show that let fans talk with players, commentators and even the FCF Commissioner, Ray Austin. These shows let you feel like a part of the league in a way the NFL can’t do.
The opening week of FCF was a fun one. The Beasts won a close one, 48-44 against the Zappers, while the Wild Aces edged it out against the Glacier Boyz. Week 2 saw the Beasts survive another close one, this time against the Wild Aces 30-28, while the Glacier Boyz beat the Zappers 28-30. In Week 3, the Zappers defeated the Wild Aces 34-30, and the Beasts won against the Glacier Boys 28-22. The final week of the regular season saw the Glacier Boyz lose to the Wild Aces 52-56. The Zappers beat the Beasts 26-32 in the Beast’s first loss of the season. In the first playoff game, the 3-1 Beasts played the 1-3 Glacier Boyz, and the Glacier Boyz pulled off an upset, 20-38. In the second playoff game, the Wild Aces held the Zappers to just six, a season and league-low, while scoring 32 points themselves. The Glacier Boyz started strong, leading 32-20 at the half, but the Wild Aces came back and won 46-40, with a touchdown as time expired.
Why this league will stay
If you love all things football, the chances are good you’ve followed other football leagues, not just the NFL. Some of the more recent examples that come to mind are the AAF and the XFL. The AAF couldn’t even finish its first season. The XFL is currently in flux, but it looks like it will merge with the CFL. The CFC looks like it has more potential to stick around long term. For one, it runs a shorter schedule; its inaugural season was merely six weeks long, playoffs included. Both the AAF and XFL had 10-week schedules; the more extended season makes it more expensive. Another cost that the FCF is saving on is teams, there are only four teams in the inaugural season, and the rosters are significantly smaller when compared to the AAF and XFL, who had eight teams and full rosters.
The FCF also saw growth in its viewership; the league saw 7.5 million views on its streams over the past six weeks. While the average game saw around 40,000 viewers, much less than the average AAF and XFL game, those numbers improved instead of declining like AAF and XFL viewership. The opening FCF game had about 35,000 viewers, and the championship game finished with 45,000+ viewers.
I’m not saying this league is going to dominant the football landscape and overthrow the NFL. But I am saying this league has a bright future and is prime for success; I encourage you to check it out next season.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.