Long Shot: Ray Austin and the FCFL

This is the first edition of my new column called “Long Shot,” where I will look at former and current athletes’ moves in the business world. This installment is about Ray Austin, former NFL defensive back, and his new business venture, the Fan Controlled Football League.

The Fan Controlled Football League is an exciting new league in which all participating fans become part of a team and subsequently vote on every decision the team makes. These fans vote on every aspect of the teams’ operations, from jersey colors to play-calling. If the fans think that certain positions could use some work, they can even trade players with other teams. The new league truly resembles real-life fantasy football, and it’s aiming to let every armchair quarterback’s dream come true.

Currently, the league has four teams: the Glacier Boyz, Beasts, Zappers and Wild Aces. The league has also benefited from a good deal of celebrity involvement. Richard Sherman and Quavo are co-owners of the Glacier Boyz, while internet celebrity Bob Menery leads the Zappers and Marshawn Lynch runs the Beasts. These celebrities’ inherent advertising power has helped the league — which has been in the making since 2017 — gain that last bit of traction, and allowed teams to play their first set of games this past week.

Ray Austin got the idea for the league when he was watching a few of his buddies play in a semi-professional league in Chicago, and thought the team would be doing better if he was the one calling the plays. Many investors and potential fans had serious concerns when the league was first announced. The first major concern was that the league was never going to be able to “compete” against the NFL. From the beginning, however,  Ray tried to stress that the league was never intended to compete against the NFL, but instead fill a completely different void in the market.

The league plays its games in a studio without fans, livestreaming the game while fans make the decisions from their couches. This was another serious concern that many had when the concept was thrown out there, as a sporting event that doesn’t prioritize in-person fans seemed like a ridiculous concept to some potential investors. However, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that leagues can have high viewership and some degree of financial success without fans in attendance.

The first week went well, opening to generally positive reviews from both critics and participants. Most agreed that it was extremely entertaining and occupied a different niche than the NFL. The Glacier Boyz fell to the Wild Aces and the Zappers lost to the Beasts. On Saturday, the Beasts will go up against the Wild Aces and the Zappers will face the Glacier Boyz. The games are streamed exclusively on Twitch.