March 24, 2021 Crowdsourcing Game Day Decisions – Fan Controlled Football and the Nexus of Sports and Innovation

This episode of Uprisor is all about Fan Controlled Football League—the first sports league controlled by fans. Steve Adler, CTO of the league, joins Topcoder VP Clinton Bonner to discuss the growing intersection of sports with business innovation, real-time crowdsourcing, and even blockchain technology. Then Clinton chats with Patrick Dees, FCF’s Chief Gaming Officer. Clinton and Steve discuss why he sought to bring crowdsourcing and the insights of fans into the world of football.

Check out the full episode and highlights below.

Fan Controlled Football Required Significant Platform Development

FCF’s first season was 2021, and they started building the technology to support the league several years ago. Think of it as a fusion between video games and a real, live football game with real, human athletes.  Fans get to play a role in everything from drafting players onto the team to the actual performance on game day, including putting together rosters, setting up plays, and calling the shots during the live game. 

Due to the complexity of the sport and the number of participants involved, FCF required Steve and his team to make considerable technological investments, including:

  • Apps and controllers for the fans
  • A microservices stack built on top of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a massively scalable, geographically redundant cloud services implementation
  • Real-time streaming of player stats and data
  • A full admin portal for coaches, players, referees and other staff

“I’m sitting on top of everything with multiple screens. I’ve got a Zoom going with approximately 50-ish people from different constituencies, from broadcast to the different admin folks, to my developers, to the IT guys in their arena. And if there’s a glitch, we’re on it right away.” —Steve Adler, FCF

Players and Coaches Benefit From Crowdsourcing Ideas

Crowdsourcing the biggest and brightest ideas has caught on in many business and industrial applications, but it’s very uncommon in the world of sports.

While fantasy leagues and other pseudo-crowdsourcing approaches exist, FCF is the first time that someone has bridged the gap between fan ideas and fan expertise, and the actual performance on the field. FCF lets fans vote on various game-day decisions and options, from plays to even humorous things like the color of pants that the coach will wear. The outcomes with the most votes get pushed to the coach/team who puts it into action.

FCF adds another layer to the crowdsourcing process: Weighted votes. Not every vote is the same, and fans who have invested more time and energy into the platform (and received what FCF calls a higher “fan IQ”) get more influence than other fans. This gamification keeps fans engaged, and also ensures better ideas and plays bubble up to the surface.

We have a very accomplished video game designer who has been working with us on the game mechanics elements of this. We reward you for participating. And the more you participate, the more fan IQ you earn.” —Steve Adler

The Sports Arena is Ripe For New Innovation

FCF is 7-on-7 instead of 11-on-11, it’s a 50 yard field instead of 100 yard, and there are no kickers or kicking at all. So it’s not just the fan interactivity that’s new, they’ve actually very much re-invented the game, or at the mildest, wildly changed the dimensions, rules, and other attributes of “classic American Football”.

It’s a prominent and cutting-edge example of how even fields and industries “outside” of the technology realm, such as American sports, can be ripe for disruption. And it can inspire you to look at other areas of your business and industry and seek ways to crowdsource ideas, engage your audience in new ways, gamify the experience, and push boundaries.

FCF itself is still on a constant journey towards complete disruption of the old sporting paradigms. For instance, Steve’s team is even playing with the idea of how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain philosophies can be implemented, earned and traded in the FCF world.

As a bonus, Clinton had a second FCF-focused conversation with Patrick Dees, the Chief Gaming Officer at FCF, who calls the experience, “Madden in real life”. Patrick shares his POV around disruption, and why giving the power directly to the fans makes FCF unlike any other professional sports league ever created. And FCF doesn’t plan on stopping with football, but rather see their technology as a platform to disrupt traditional sports across the board. Season 1.0 (as they aptly call it in their league) wrapped up this past Saturday, as the FCF Wild Aces took home the trophy – winning the first ever “People’s Championship”. For more on Fan Controlled Football, follow their league on Twitter at @fcflio and at

Many thanks to Steve for joining the Uprisor podcast. For more tech conversations centered on the Future of Work, listen and subscribe to Uprisor wherever you get your podcasts.

Annika Nagy

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