Last Thursday, January 17th, Chattanooga Football Club announced a limited opportunity for fans to become owners in the club, becoming the first American sports team to do so since securities reform laws passed in late 2016 allowing such investments. Proceeds from the limited offering of 8,000 shares will support the club’s move from amateur to professional players and year-round operation.
In just three days, the Club has raised over a third of its million dollar goal from over 1,300 investors all over the United States and the world, one of the fastest starts in the history of equity crowdfunding.
Founded in 2009, Chattanooga Football Club has drawn nearly 350,000 fans to its games at Finley Stadium over the course of the last ten seasons. In 2019, the club will play an extended season with professional players in the NPSL Founders Cup, and fully launch the league in 2020.
“Since our first year, our expectation has been to offer our fans shares in the club, so we are very excited to finally do this,” said Chattanooga Football Club board member Krue Brock. “For ten years, we’ve been Chattanooga’s team, so being able to offer fans shares so that they have a voice in the direction of the club is perfectly aligned with who we are. Think Green Bay Packers and you understand the path we are on.”
The club is hopeful that this will serve as a model for other clubs across the country. “The American sports landscape is dominated by a relatively small group of very wealthy owners,” said Tim Kelly, club chairman. “We feel this could be a real game-changer to connect communities across the country with teams they love in a deep and meaningful way.“
“Teams leave cities because their objective is not to serve the community, but to maximize profit,” Kelly said. “By offering our fans ownership and re-organizing as a public benefit corporation, we are permanently committing ourselves to Chattanooga. We love this city and will never leave it.”
With the passage of the Jobs Acts in late 2016, Section CF crowdfunding allows non-accredited investors to make investments in corporations from a simple, online platform. Chattanooga Football Club will be the first sports team to offer shares, and one of only a handful of teams to ever offer public ownership. While the practice is common in the rest of the world- even mandatory in the German Bundesliga- it is rare in the US. “Chattanooga Football Club is at the forefront of American sports by offering its fans the opportunity to be owners of the team they love and support,” noted Kim Arnone, Vice President of Cutting Edge Capital, a strategic capital consulting company that advised on the process. “Capital raises, like Regulation CF and direct public offerings, are a perfect fit with community-focused and fan-based enterprises like Chattanooga Football Club. Fan and stakeholder investment in beloved local institutions forges connections that make communities stronger and more vibrant and that is what the club is hoping to achieve with this offering.”
Photo Credit: Charlie Milburn