There is precisely one team owned by its fans in America’s four major sports: the Green Bay Packers. And don’t think for an instant they actually run it.
Fans who acquire common stock in the Packers get to vote for a 45-person Board of Directors, who get to pick a seven-person Executive Committee, who get to name the coach and the GM and the people actually deciding to whom Aaron Rodgers will throw the ball.
But what if those face-painted boosters could actually control a team? What if there was a “fanchise,” where they voted on everything from the team logo to the coach to the plays called during the game?
Enter the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles. In their first season, they play in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Valley City as part of the Indoor Football League. (The IFL has 10 teams in places decidedly neglected by the NFL—for instance, two of them are located in Iowa.)
The Screaming Eagles ownership group set out to make “Project FANchise” a reality, which they did partly through raising over $60,000 on Indiegogo to finalize their app. The goal: Use technology to give fans an actual say in a franchise. (Meaning the app lets users control the team far more than all their screaming at the sidelines ever did.) This led to moments like a press conference where they unveiled a helmet with a question mark, because the fans still needed to decide on a team name. (And yes, “Utah Teamy McTeamface” did finish in the top 10.)
There is a logic to giving fans a direct stake in the team. Recently the NFL saw three franchises competing to earn the privilege of fleeing their communities, but while barely 100,000 of the 5.7 million Wisconsin residents live in Green Bay, the Packers aren’t going anywhere. And there was an undeniable excitement in that first Screaming Eagles game when fans took charge, as the crowd stayed surprisingly engaged through to the end, especially considering….
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Patriots coach Bill Belichick going along with “crowd-source” decisions, as Screaming Eagles Coach William McCarthy has. And it’s worth noting that fan enthusiasm significantly outweighed their expertise in that debut: the team lost 78-47 to the Nebraska Danger.
If you want to get the app and take your share of control of the Screaming Eagles, click here. If you’re a football traditionalist and still unable to wrap your mind around any of this, you can watch the entire game below.
—Sean Cunningham for RealClearLife
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