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Founder Profile: Sports Team Ownership Has Never Been So Close

Summary

While there have been reports in the news this week about the new AAF Football League being rescued from a dire financial situation just weeks after launch by  a major new investment, the reality is sports teams in the US have provided significant gains for their billionaire investors over the past 20 years.

 We have seen more professional sports teams be transacted in the billion dollar plus category in the past few years than many could have ever expected. It’s this fact that piqued my interest so very much about Chattanooga FC, an up and coming soccer club with a rabid and growing fan base in a league that is beginning to gain a foothold.

 Mind you, soccer is also a growing sport in the US that is only beginning to get its legs. That’s why I recently sat down with Co-Founder & Chairman Of The Board, Tim Kelly of Chattanooga FC to learn about why they are offering their fans the chance to become owners in the team and what the upside in the business could actually look like for investors. Want to own a sports team?

Here is your chance. Get the details below in our Founder Q&A!
Chris Lustrino

Tim can you tell us about where your passion for soccer came from?

Tim Kelly

Hard to say. I have German heritage and so liked to watch Soccer Made in Germany as a kid, played it as a kid, and it just stayed in my blood.

Chris Lustrino

For those that don’t know, can you talk about the National Premier Soccer League? How has it grown and where is the league heading?

Tim Kelly

It’s grown by leaps and bounds since we began ten years ago. There are nearly 100 teams in the league, and now we are moving to the next level with a new, higher league that has grown out of that original league.

Chris Lustrino

What does your fan base look like today and how do you plan to continue to expand it?

Tim Kelly

We have a rabid core of dedicated fans (the Chattahooligans and some others who are just as dedicated but maybe not as vocal), and then a larger group of fans whose kids play in our academy, or are just looking for some great entertainment on a Saturday night. We averaged nearly 4,000 fans a game last year (with very challenging weather and schedule) and we’ve had multiple games with attendance over 10,000, so we know the potential to grow is there. Our goal is to average over 5,000 this season.

Chris Lustrino

What are your revenue streams and what has growth looked like to date?

Tim Kelly

Main revenue streams are tickets, sponsorships, concessions commissions (from Finley Stadium), merchandise, and youth camps. Going forward with professional players, we expect we will also generate some revenue from player transfers (the sale of contracts).

 Growth has been strong and steady since 2010, with revenue growth every year. This season our projections are for a nearly 30% jump in revenue, with most of that coming from higher sponsorship and ticket sales.

Chris Lustrino

Is the team planning to pursue a TV deal at all and if so what would that generally look like?

Tim Kelly

With the rapid growth of streaming platforms around the world, we are looking to go that route for broadcast. We currently have a YouTube channel but are examining strategies and partners for the new league now.

Chris Lustrino

The real expansionary opportunity for this team would be if it had a chance down the road to get promoted up to the MLS. Do you think we could ever see that in the US league, like we see in Europe?

Tim Kelly

Yes, we feel there it’s not a question of “if” but “when”. The system of promotion and relegation is clear FIFA policy, and the US is now the only country in the world not in compliance. There are various legal actions pending to try to force the issue.

Chris Lustrino

In order to field a strong product how will you invest your payroll budget effectively while still attracting great talent?

Tim Kelly

We pride ourselves on providing a great experience in Chattanooga for our players. Our fans get to know them all by name and we work hard to make sure they’re happy. Many (if not most) tell us it’s the greatest playing experience they’ve ever had, and we offer many other developmental opportunities to them as well. So we feel we can manage a very efficient payroll with a very strong team.

Chris Lustrino

Does the team currently own the stadium or is it a lease? How does this affect the bottom line generally?

Tim Kelly

Finley Stadium is owned by the city and county. We just signed a three-year lease that we are quite happy with and I also serve on the board of the Stadium Corporation that operates Finley so we are in a good place there. The financial strategies of ownership can be compelling but we could never afford to build a stadium the size of Finley at this point, so this is an ideal situation.

Chris Lustrino

For those that don’t live in Chattanooga what is your pitch to them as to why they may want to invest and be a part of this team from an investment perspective?

Tim Kelly

From a cold, hard investment perspective, it’s a bet on whether the US will eventually comply with the world’s system of promotion and relegation, and whether Chattanooga Football Club will be able to climb that ladder when it’s created.

 The asset value of sports teams generally grows over time, and that would be the major factor that would affect our asset value seismically. This is highly unlikely to be a dividend producing investment, as most profits tend to get competed away buying better players. But that’s not to say it’s impossible.

There is a long road ahead for Chattanooga FC investors. It will take many years for the league to become more established, for revenues to grow, for TV deals to be put in place and for MLS rules to potentially shift in the teams favor.

 

Regardless, this is a chance to be a part of an exciting grassroots movement to help change not only the investment landscape, but the sports industry as a whole. Think about fans driving the league, rather than billionaire owners! What an awesome concept.

 

I am incredibly fascinated by the value proposition that the team is offering to fans and sports/investor enthusiast alike. Again, I can’t say for sure that the returns will be near term or massive, but I do think there is something valuable here to consider.

 

The energy I left the call from Tim Kelly with is the type of energy I look for in every founder and it’s the type of energy and management you want to get behind.

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About: Chris Lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

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