Oakland County Football Club has declared themselves: “The first team in Michigan with community ownership.” On Thursday, March 1, 2018, Oakland County FC launched a supporters trust. The trust will offer fans a share in the club. With this offer, Oakland County FC joins a small group of American sports teams with a community ownership aspect to it’s business model.
The three year old club chose to open up their club to the community in an effort to give a voice to fans, while providing sustainability to the team. Within the closed American soccer system, many lower league teams have found it difficult to remain in operation; hence, the concept of community ownership. OCFC’s Supporters’ Trust officially began selling memberships with a presentation and meet-and-greet event at 5th Avenue Bar & Restaurant in Royal Oak, Mi.
Oakland County FC offers Trust Memberships to Public
Oakland County FC, owned by Nicolino Morana, Ben Rode and Theo Foutris, are selling 10% of their club to the public at $60-per-membership. The club is initially offering 400 Trust Memberships, with one Membership available per-person. OCFC detailed in their presentation that each Trust Member will be invested forever and will have the ability to vote on a variety of club related items. The votable items mentioned include: choosing the team’s jersey and scarf designs, game day amenities, as well as future opponents for OCFC friendly exhibition matches. Individuals who buy into OCFC during the first offering will also receive a number of additional perks, including a season ticket, guest tickets, discounts, and access to the supporter selected jersey reveal party.
— Oakland County FC (@OaklandCountyFC) March 2, 2018
Building a Fanbase and Financial stability
OCFC’s choice to open up the Supporters’ Trust can be considered as pioneering. Very few sports teams in the United States have a community ownership model. The decision was prompted, in no small part, by the inherent imperfections of the current American soccer system. When the three owners, all of which are under 30-years-old, saw older, more established clubs than their’s dissolve, or suspend operations with frequency, they knew they needed a different approach.
“We are going for a combination of fan building and financial stability” stated OCFC co-owner and Head Coach Nicolino Morana in December. “The club is not asking for an absurd amount of money. We took the first few years to establish ourselves and our name. To get to that next level of exposure we thought the trust would be a great idea. Let’s get the fans involved, lets get them to feel for the club outside of just coming to the games and supporting the team on the day. Lets get them to feel proud of actually owning something that is in the community. [The community trust] will be something cool, an opportunity that doesn’t present itself very often. You can be a soccer fan and feel that your team is yours, but to actually know that you have an ownership stake in it and have an influence on the direction of where the club may go [will enhance the fan experience]. [We are] trying to get to the happy medium between passion for sport and sound business.”
OCFC reported via email that the club had sold more than 50 Trust Memberships within the first four days of launching. Additional details about the Oakland County FC Supporters Trust can be found on the clubs website http://www.oaklandcountyfc.com/ocfc-supporters-trust/.
A New Home for Oakland County FC
Mixed in with Oakland County FC’s presentation was the news that the club have a new home. OCFC will now be playing their home games at Clawson City Park Stadium in Clawson, Mi. The team had played their 2017 season at Royal Oak High School while training in Clawson.
“Clawson has welcomed us with open arms.” announced co-owner Theo Foutris. “I think everyone is going to enjoy the venue. It’s a really cozy venue and I think it will accommodate our fan base a bit better. We’re excited for the move and excited to see what the Clawson community has in store for us this year.” Clawson City Park Stadium is a 1,000 seat venue, located in the heart Clawson’s residential neighborhood.
Oakland County FC will be competing in the United Premier Soccer League in 2018, and will begin their season in early May. The club will play in the league’s newly formed Midwest Conference East Division. The six team division will feature four Michigan based clubs.