Review Fix chats with FANchise co-founder Sohrob Farubi,who alongside former NFL Pro Bowlers Ahman Green and Al Wilson, the former President of the 49ers Andy Dolich, and longtime NFL and ESPN digital execs bought a team in the IFL, the International Football League, the same league where former NFL great was plucked from before his run with the Rams and they’re doing something different- they are letting the fans run the show.
Think fantasy football or Madden franchise mode in real life – fans will do everything from designing the logo and naming the team to choosing the players and even calling the plays in real-time. Currently building a mobile app that will enable fans at the game, or anywhere around the globe, to be real life GM’s, coaches and scouts, Farubi discusses the inspiration behind the project and what fans can expect moving forward.
For more information on the project, click here.
Review Fix: What made you guys decide to do this?
Sohrob Farubi: Interestingly enough 3 of the co-founders (me, Grant, Ray) all had similar ideas and were working on it separately. Ray was in Chicago working on a mobile app that would allow fans to call plays in real-time. Grant was working on this idea back in 2008, but wanted to implement the concept with minor league baseball not football. My brothers and I have been brainstorming this idea for about 5 years now and finally felt it was the right time with the way gaming, fantasy sports, social media, and mobile tech have grown over the past 3 years or so. I was introduced to Ray through a mutual friend (former 49er All Pro Tony Parrish) and I found Grant from a NYT article (here) I stumbled across while doing some research on the concept. I pulled them in with me and along with two of my best friends Andrew (technology guru) and Patrick (biz dev guru) we decided it was the right group of guys and the timing was perfect. Oh, and we found a league (www.goifl.com) that was very receptive to our idea and willing to let us buy a new franchise to implement the concept.
Review Fix: How have video games played a role in this?
Farubi: Absolutely. The growth in gaming/eSports over the past 36 months, especially the venture capital funds pouring into the space, got me excited about our prospects. At the end of the day we are basically building a real life Madden franchise mode – and with over 100 million copies sold of Madden there is a big audience out there for what we’re doing.
Review Fix: You’re working with some amazing people on this, how did they get involved?
Farubi: Luck and relationships. I’ve been lucky in my life both professionally and personally to have built up a really great network of friends that never hesitate to make introductions and help. Andy Dolich was introduced to me by a good friend of my brothers. Ahman Green is a friend of Ray’s, who in turn was introduced to me by Tony Parish who I met during my short stint in the AFL. Manish Jha was introduced to me through a friend of a friend who loved the concept and wanted to help. Manish happens to live a few miles from me in Manhattan Beach which made it easy. Al Wilson from a friend of my brother’s in Denver. To me there is nothing more important than your relationships. I am a huge believer in helping people and it will eventually come back around. I never hesitate to spend time helping someone get where they want to go.
Review Fix: How much power will fans really have?
Farubi: Ultimate power, ultimate control. This idea doesn’t work if we half ass it. And it doesn’t work if we are not fully transparent. Our mobile app will include a “FanIQ” rating system that quantifies a fans football knowledge. There will be very small hurdles to cross to participate in votes that have no effect on the outcome of the games (logo design, team name, beer we serve in the arena, etc.). But in order to choose the players and call plays during the game fans will have to prove they have the football knowledge to do so. Having said that, we want everyone to have that knowledge which is why we are bringing in such accomplished players, coaches, and front office guys to help the fans. Part of what we are doing is educational. We want our fans to be the most knowledgable fans in football. We are going to surround them with people that can help them learn the game, and we want to arm our fans with knowledge to win. At the end of the day this doesn’t work if we go 0-16 three years in a row. There will be growing pains, but ultimate we want to WIN!
Review Fix: What are your goals for this?
Farubi: Our goal for season 1 is to prove that fans want to do this, and prove that they can do it. We already have 16,000 fans registered to participate from across the globe…people in the UK, Sweden, Canada, Africa, Mexico. What’s amazing about that is the average IFL team has 4,000 people attend their games. We have not even announced where the team will play and we have thousands of fans clamoring to help build this and participate. It’s amazing! Our long term goal is to see the IFL (or another league) become a fully fan-run league. Every team controlled by fans. Then the real fun begins…with fans battling digital world in the offseason and in the week leading up to game day, and then watching real teams battle it out on the field to see which fans are the best!
Review Fix: What’s next?
Farubi: City/venue announcement on April 12th. From there fans will choose the name of the team, then design the logo, mascot, uniforms, etc. And they will hire the GM, we’ll open the front office, and we are off to the races.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Farubi: I want to stress how serious we are about this. We are committed to building a quality product and organization on and off the field. We believe the collective power and knowledge of the fans can compete with “traditional” teams, and we cannot wait for that first game when a FANchise beats a traditional team. The game will change forever the first time that happens.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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