Reno 1868 FC announced that the club was folding. They have already ceased operations. This did feel like it came out of nowhere. It didn’t though. To my knowledge Reno 1868 FC never had a profitable season. The 2020 season probably put the team into a further financial hole. It was rumored since before the 2020 season resumed that San Jose was pulling their affiliation. That was later confirmed after the MLS announced that they would be creating a reserve league. That was significant as San Jose paid for almost every player. San Jose might have been paying for some of the coaching staff costs.
After the news broke I was saddened. I also wasn’t ready to give up on this team. No one should give up on this team yet. No one should give up on soccer in Reno yet. There are still things we can do to keep Reno 1868 FC alive. I am also more than willing to help lead the save the team effort.
USL Championship Return
A return to the USL Championship isn’t likely. The USL Championship requires a majority owner worth at least 10 million to own at least 35% of the franchise. I don’t think it’s realistic that anyone in that position would buy the team. Reno has not proven itself to be a profitable soccer market. Investors are also investing in larger markets that have proven themselves to be profitable. There are plenty of larger markets that haven’t been given a chance. Investors are also looking for potential MLS markets. That’s why I don’t think finding a qualified USL Championship owner is realistic at this point.
What Is Realistic
Having a supporter-owned amateur team is the most realistic option at this point. Amateur soccer teams operate around 50 thousand a season. In the sports world that is not a lot of money. I also think it is realistic that a team like that can be put together without having to seek large investors. The current front runners for leagues to join are the NISA and the USL League 2.
Here is an article I found about running a 4th tier United States soccer team.
One of the biggest hurdles right now is the name rights. Since Reno 1868 FC folded, the name rights are now under the ownership of the USL Championship. Buying the name rights could prove costly. I am not sure what the USL plans to do with them. It would be easier to rename the team. The team can be renamed while keeping a similar identity. Something like Reno 1868 SC, Reno 1868, Reno 1868 AC, Club Reno 1868. Names like that while keeping a similar color scheme.
My plan may differ from others plans but it’s been less than 48 hours and not being organized as a collective of Reno 1868 FC supporters seems to be a large hurdle for figuring out how to move forward. No one is on the same page. BBB doesn’t seem to be doing anything at the moment. DAR Is doing their own thing but not everything they are doing has been super public. Then I and another Reno 1868 FC supporter have been trying to figure things out as well. It’s a mess. Similar situations like this around the world have led to the creation of multiple teams in a single city. Since people in leadership positions in the BBB and DAR don’t get along it may be a possibility that both groups go in separate directions and end up creating two new rival teams. There are a lot of pros/cons to that scenario but I think it would be cool to have a cross-town rivalry.
Anyway, the plan that I am heading up is this:
- create ownership group (Made up of mostly 1868 supporters)
- become a supporter-owned club to meet 50k goal (sell shares/subscriptions)
- create front office staff and find a place to play
- select which league we wish to play in
- become profitable
- expand (add reserves, academy, women’s teams, indoor teams, futsal teams, larger venue)
- build facilities (training grounds, stadium)
- become pro (restructure ownership while remaining supporter-owned)
1 Creating An Ownership Group
The ownership group that I am building will only cost 1,000 to join. We will need to get 15,000 to 25,000 before moving towards number 2. What has to happen is we need 15 to 25 people to commit to investing at least 1,000 dollars. At this point that is just a commitment. No one has to put any finances in yet. The financial obligation will not be the only responsibility of ownership. At least in the first season ownership will have some front office and operations crew responsibilities. In my experience with small businesses (which this is), ownership can’t just put in money and walk away. There will not be enough money to do that. Additional expenses may also happen after initial investments are made. The reason for that is because unforeseen sh*t happens. Ex. Equipment gets stolen while on an away trip.
2 Become A Supporter-Owned Club To Meet 50k Goal
Once we have enough money to lay the groundwork for a team as an ownership group, we will start selling shares and or subscriptions for a more affordable fee to cover reaming costs. Shares would be a one-time buy. Subscription would be a lower cost monthly fee. Both fees would be less than 100 dollars. Investors outside of the ownership group will receive benefits. Those benefits would be in line with things like season ticket holder benefits. Things like discounts, free tickets, and free merchandise, and exclusive events. As investors, they will receive part of team revenue just like the ownership will.
3 Create Front Office Staff And Find A Place To Play
Our front office and operations crew would be a mix of ownership, volunteers, and team staff. The only staff that we would hire for the first season would be a president (someone who can handle the day to day for the team itself) and coaching staff. We will also hire whoever else the league we join is requiring we have as a staff.
Finding a place to play may be difficult. However, there are plenty of places in Washoe county. Ideally what we will be looking for is a high school stadium with a few thousand seats. Finding a place to play is more important than deciding which league to join. It will not matter what league we are in if we don’t have a place to play. The Wiffleball league I created has been in limbo for a year because we haven’t found a place to play yet. The people were there, the money was there but without a facility, no one can play.
4 Select Which League We Wish To Play In
Selecting a league to join may be the easiest part of the process up to that point. Off the top of my head, I can think of 4 amateur leagues that would accept a team in Reno. One that had a team in the Reno/Carson City area before. Two of the other leagues have already expressed interest in having a team in Reno. It’s almost too easy.
5 Become Profitable
Becoming profitable is the most important thing when it comes to moving forward on expanding and return as a pro club. If the team fails to become profitable, the team will not have to money to expand as an organization, no one will further invest in the team, and most importantly the team may have to cease operations. When it comes to sports profit margins tend to be thin. Profit margins tend to be higher with successful amateur teams. I think the reason for this is that the operating cost for an amateur team is lower, so they don’t have to make as much money to be profitable. For example, if a pro team operating cost is 3 million and they only make 1.5 million (-50%) then they lose a significant amount of money. If an amateur team operating cost 50 thousand and they make 100 thousand (200%) profit they have made significantly more for that organization despite it being less money.
I have a plan on how to become profitable. The plan is kind of simple but I think it is the key to success for every sports team outside of the top levels. The top levels or Major sports leagues can survive off the talent level of their product. Minor league and amateur teams cannot. They have to exploit their advantages over the higher-level teams. The two advantages that any lower-level team has should be fun and affordability. It should be fun while not being too expensive for the consumer. Fun is things like production value, putting creativity first (like Forward Madison), having a winning team. Affordable means the working class can become fans. If someone has to work for two or more hours on minimum wage to afford a ticket, likely, they will not become a fan even if they enjoy the sport. If we make it where the working class can afford to come to a game and buy a beer or bring their family we will have created something that a lot of the other entertainment in Washoe county (casinos, restaurants, NCAA sporting events, Reno Aces, even youth sports) can’t offer. Affordability also includes those in college. Most people I know in college are also on tight budgets. If it’s fun though the production value and is affordable the fans will show up even if the team is in the last place in the league. Those are just some examples of the kind of direction I want to head in with this team.
We will be able to be fun and affordable as our operating costs should be paid for by our sponsors. Ticket and merchandise sales should all be profit. The reason we will be able to get a lot from sponsors is that we will have a large number of sponsors at a lower cost. If we can get 500 sponsors (which is on par or less with how many on-field sponsors Reno 1868 FC had for the 2020 season) at 100 dollars that will make up for the entire 50 thousand operating costs. Reno alone has over 20 thousand businesses. 500 sponsors would be less than 2.5% (and that’s just Reno, not Washoe county, not Nevada, not Nationwide, not international). The number of businesses that may sponsor us could be a lot higher. 100 dollars is less than a single sale for most of those businesses. Not every sponsorship will be at 100 dollars. I am just using this as an example of how easy it is to use sponsors to cover the team costs.
A full stadium is important in attracting sponsors. No one is going to pay to sponsor a team that doesn’t have fans in seats. I learned from years of going to hockey games that putting fans in seats (even at a loss to the team) is very important. The fans are the consumers. They are there to see the product which is the event. In that process, the team is making money by selling ads to the fans. As a team brings in more fans, more companies will be interested in buying sponsorships. With more interest in sponsorships, the team can make more money.
As the team becomes profitable, the team will expand. Expanding into things like having a reserve team, having an academy, having women’s teams, even expanding into indoor soccer and futsal. Expansion is important. More teams mean more games. More games mean more money. More money means a quicker route to return as a pro team. As the team expands, we should be selling out games. When we sell out games constantly, we will look for a larger venue.
7 Build Facilities
With the team being profitable, having multiple teams, and playing in a larger venue, it would be time to build for the future of the team. What that means is building a stadium and training facilities that would be on course for what a pro team would have. This could also happen simultaneously with number 6. Training grounds might be built first as they might be cheaper to build. Once the team has the money the team will buy a property. The team does not have to have the funds to build facilities to buy the property. Once the team has the property, they will sell the name rights to secure the funds needed to build the stadium and training facilities.
I was thinking the training grounds would have a full-size outdoor grass field, an office space, and indoor space. The office space would be between the indoor space and the outdoor space. The first story of the office space would be a bar or restaurant. The second level would be the team offices. The indoor facility and outdoor field would be viewable from the first level. The second level would overlook the indoor facility and outdoor field. The indoor facility would include a full-size turf field. There would be lockers. Above the lockers would be a gym. The gym would overlook the whole indoor facility. Also in the indoor facility would be an area that can hold two full-sized indoor soccer fields. That area would be able to switch between two full-sized indoor soccer fields to multiple futsal courts. The outside design of this whole project will be based on shipping containers. The training grounds may not be in the same location as the stadium.
I think a 5,000 to 7,000 seat stadium that can be built on would be the perfect thing for our team. Again, it would be designed using shipping containers. It would also have to have a city center design. Brining in retail, bars, and restaurants are key in making games an all-day experience. It is also important in generating revenue during non-game days. Brining in recreational leagues and other events to the stadium will also be important in generating revenue. I have put some pictures below as to what some of this could look like.
8 Become Pro
A return to pro soccer might not mean a return to the USL Championship. To be pro in any United States Soccer Federation sanctioned league we will have to have one owner (probably owning the majority of the team) that is worth at least 10 million. To make that happen part of the ownership will be sold to the new owner. They may not include every team within the club. It may just be the top team. The ownership group plus the supporter investors will maintain some level of ownership but it may no longer be the majority. However, the stadium and other facilities will stay in control (at least the majority) to the ownership group and supporter investors. If our team shows it can be profitable, shows growth (though expansion), and can build a stadium finding an owner to bring the team pro shouldn’t be too difficult.
Depending on how quickly we can put together an investment group, we can have a team up and running for 2021. The rest of the project could take between two and five years to complete. This blog is pretty much an outline of how we will be moving forward with this project. I hope that supporters can differences aside to make this project work. There are still a lot of people who are passionate about soccer in Reno and bringing our team back. If you are interested in helping make this project a reality please contact me. You can contact me here. As soon as this blog post goes live I will be creating a list of people committed to being in the ownership group. I will also put up additional resources for this project on zacelectrifly.com as soon as Monday. This isn’t it. We are not done. We are not going out like this. We are going to at least try to save soccer here in Reno.