Fan Owned Club, led by Steve Paris, is changing how fans interact with their favorite sports teams. Starting with Austria’s FC Pinzgau Saalfelden, fans can own a piece of the club, receive insider perks, and even give strategic insight into how the club is managed. Fan Owned Club has recently extended its reach into Ireland and plans to launch a +Fan platform soon. This platform will facilitate broader fan ownership for clubs and extend beyond soccer.
In our conversation with Steve, we dove into his growth strategy, exploring how Fan Owned Club can catalyze increased revenue for teams. We discussed the unique aspects of this opportunity as well as what inspired it.
In your own words, how would you describe your company?
Fan Owned Club helps clubs and leagues deepen their connection with fans and grow their fan base by providing a unique Owner Experience. Sports fans want a stronger connection to the teams they follow, but most clubs lack the expertise, resources, and funding to deliver. For clubs, we deliver resources, expertise, and incremental revenue streams. For fans, we provide insider access, influence on operations, and, sometimes, equity in clubs.
We started working with our first club, Austria’s FC Pinzgau Saalfelden, in 2019, helping the men’s team move from the relegation zone to a highly competitive program. Recently, our Project Ascend helped the women’s program expand and earn promotion.
In November, we announced our second partnership with Carrick Rangers Football Club of the Northern Ireland Premiership. We will launch our beta +Fan platform in January, allowing us to scale to other partners and sports. Currently, we have Fan Owners in 43 states and eight countries.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
What initially seemed like a crazy idea quickly became an itch I had to scratch. After graduating from UMASS with a sports management degree, I worked for a few years in a sports startup before getting my MBA. I had intended to return to sport but instead spent two decades working in big corporations, first in brand management at General Mills and then in SaaS data analytics and digital media sales. Fan Owned Club was a chance to return to my sports roots and build something unique.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
From day one, we met the right person at the right time. Co-founder Trey Fitz-Gerald spent his whole career in the MLS, giving us instant credibility in professional soccer. He now sits on our board. Dave Crouch is a former college soccer player and successful software founder. He’s leading our +Fan platform development. David Herman was a close friend of a former colleague and has been evangelizing soccer in the US for 20 years as the CMO of One United, Manchester United’s USA Supporters Club. I worked for Peter Corbett, a serial sports entrepreneur in the ’90s, but we only recently reconnected. Chris Sydney, our sporting director, has a 30-year career focused on grassroots soccer and is the architect of our women’s program, Project Ascend. The list goes on. We have been tremendously fortunate in attracting amazing people passionate about what we are building.
How is Fan Owned Club transforming the sports industry?
Until recently, any fan ownership experience in the US was unknown. Even today, most of those that exist are either cosmetic – a certificate to hang on your wall – or attractive primarily to their local community. We’re trying to create a deeper, more meaningful experience at a global level, something that will be a win for clubs and leagues, a win for fans, and a win for our investors. Though we have started in soccer, we think our approach can be applied across sports.
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We are focused on three strategic pillars. The first is helping our partners build strong, sustainable clubs. This includes bringing expertise, relationships, and resources to bear. Our second pillar is all about productizing our experience through accelerated development of our +Fan platform. And finally, our third pillar is driving scale through new partnerships. There are over 11,000 clubs in the English-speaking official soccer pyramids alone. Fortunately, we have a pipeline of opportunities approaching us, but finding the right fit for our next partners is critical.
What else do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Fan Owned Club perfectly fits the changing consumer, digital, and media landscape. People hunger for experiences and content but want it delivered on their own terms. Everything, including sports, is increasingly consumed in bite-sized chunks. Or binged. Those trends are not going away. Fan Owned Club has a unique opportunity to deliver content and an experience that people are deeply passionate about, digitally and at scale.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?
Long term, we see this as a SaaS or Experience as a Solution subscription-driven business with significant media and data monetization opportunities. With the potential for hundreds of teams and their highly engaged, passionate fan bases on the platform, the growth opportunities are staggering. While our primary objective is building strong recurring revenue, agencies, sports tech, media platforms, and even sports ownership groups are all logical future partners or targets for exit.