The Crown League, the first community-backed fantasy football league, is rebranding as the “Hall of Fantasy League” after its acquisition by the Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Company, which is developing the Pro Football Hall of Fame site.
The league will feature 10 regionally-based teams run by sports professionals, from Hall of Fame players, to former NFL front office personnel, to sports media personalities, likely to be finalized in the first half of next year.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us. When you’re a startup company, attaching yourself to a legitimate entity like a Hall of Fame Village can really change your offering in a big way,” HOFL founder Mat Sposta said. “The ability to integrate the brands and marks into our content, the ability to integrate some of the players into our gameplay and our offering, the ability to leverage the Hall of Fame Village property in Canton for activations and our annual draft, really give us this new opportunity and tap into this new community and new world of individuals”
The league envisions local activations and live events taking place in the named regions once COVID-19 restrictions allow for it, and could also use talent or former players from specific regions to encourage participation.
“All of that coming together will essentially drive engagement at the local level, but there’s going to be many individuals who are opportunistic, who say, ‘I don’t care if this is my local team, I’m going to pick the best team or I’m going to pick the best manager to back,’” Sposta said.
Each team will have a “pretty significant” buy-in to the league, and fans will participate through staking — the practice of selling a piece of interest in a team and paying out the corresponding upside in the case of a win. Stakeholders will be able to offer input on roster moves and communicate directly with their teams’ front offices and others who have bought stakes.
“What this does is this allows me to own a piece of a professional franchise that’s being managed by experts. And it gets me to share in my fun and excitement in fantasy with other individuals who are playing,” Sposta said. “So for the first time ever, we’re bringing communities together in the fantasy world, and they’ll be able to chat, strategize, collaborate with each other, as well as with the professionals, with the fantasy experts, all on our digital app.”
When the league was initially announced in 2019, the team valuations were set to start at $5 million, with 100,000 $50 shares initially available. The launch was pushed to 2020 due to a “hiccup on the financing,” Sposta said, and then to 2021 due to the acquisition process.
The league’s first draft is now expected to take place in the summer of 2021, in time to kick off operations for the 2021 NFL season.
For the Hall of Fame Village — which has aspirations to create its own media content from its free agent training camp, among other things — the fantasy league provides yet another option.
“We’re having discussions around the opportunity to leverage some of our fantasy experts and talent for content and media opportunities like developing a weekly podcast,” Sposta said.
Along with the rebranding, the HOFL also has a new partnership with the once-viral app HQ Trivia to launch “Hall of Trivia on HQ,” a weekly football, fantasy and sports-themed trivia show hosted by journalist Jeff Eisenband.
The show will debut ahead of “Thursday Night Football” on Oct. 22.
When HQ approached the fantasy league’s team, they thought it was a “great opportunity to tap into a new audience.”
“I think the trivia game audience has a very interesting connection with the gaming audience, whether it’s sports bettors, or fantasy players, or gamers, and the ability to create a show that’s built around sports and to talk about things that are relevant in the fantasy season, in the football season,” Sposta said. “I think it’s going to get a lot of people excited. It’s going to attract new audiences to them. And at the same time it’s going to raise awareness and exposure for our brand.”