Dear Guys in Charge of the USAFL:
As a supporter of the work and goals of your organization, I am a little bothered at how the campaign to create an inter-league system which uses promotion and relegation has gone so far. I am addressing this openly because (a) I’ve attempted to address these things privately to little avail and (b) as a pro/rel supporter I need to remind you guys that your success or failure will, to a degree, directly color how American fans and even potential investors will look at the concepts of pro/rel.
In short, how you fare affects not just how people see you guys as an organization, but becomes part of the conversation about pro/rel in America.
With that in mind, there are concerns you seriously need to address if you are going to see your goals attained.
1. Setting realistic goals. You’re asking for a half a million dollars to create a functional league system. To be frank, I’m not sure what that money goes to. What I do know is that offering a supporters kit which will itself cost money to produce, meaning even less goes to the organization, and even worse, if your top perk is a $350 fan kit, it seems somewhat detached from your greater plans. You had a great fee schedule to start with the lowest division at $1000. Why not offer someone the chance to purchase a club franchise right at that price as part of the campaign? Why is it all “if you build it they will come”? Does the organization need $500,000 to start, or can you guys function with $100K to start? Can you focus on building a single league, the lowest level on the pyramid (which was what I thought was the plan to begin with) perhaps, before painting the office?
2. Shooting your friends. I’ve said this before: when people offer advice, there’s a reason we do it. We want to see you succeed. And we’re doing this because you’re not. Labelling everyone as a potential competitor’s absolutely ridiculous and you should remove that verbiage immediately. Because I can’t seriously accept that you all believe that. Sure, once you have a professional division (if you’re not, by then, working with people you previously labelled as competitors) that may be worth discussing. But as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of it comes down to multipliers when you’re talking about financing divisions. Assuming you are doing massive three- or four- team promotions per year, even a half-table split to create a division, to get to where USL-Pro is by, say, a factor of 10 starting at that $1,000, you would need to create 6 levels of the pyramid. That would, obviously, take six years at a minimum, since you can only promote once per year unless you do a split season. Which still means three years. Assuming you are growing at SIX TEAMS PER DIVISION PER SEASON.
The point I’m trying to make is not that your goals are impossible. They aren’t, although your timeframe is sufficiently long that calling out potential competitors at the professional level when you’re basically working to organize park leagues alienates people at the professional level who might otherwise be donors or associates of your work. Take NASL, for example. A number of people, including the commissioner, have stated their support for your goals. And since you would be doing the legwork of building the pyramid beneath them anyway, it would seem illogical to therefore call them all out as competitors years before that’s even a possibility.
What that simply guarantees is that people who do have resources to make the US-AFL’s goals reachable who actually support in theory what you are planning in practice will not take you seriously from the outset, if they aren’t outright offended. And since you aren’t offering a way to directly micro-invest in the league right now, you’re simply not in a position to do that.
3. Your verbiage and video need to be fixed. Yesterday. You have a fairly good level of support, considering what you’re messing up. If you had gotten $10 out of every time your page had been shared on Facebook or Tweeted, you’d have almost ten times what you have now. But if you’re asking for a half-million dollars to get your non-profit organization started, and video is central to successful crowdfunding campaigns, then you’d better pay someone over at Fiverr to make sure your grammar in a video is correct.
While overall your story is readable, it’s extremely disjointed. You need to simplify and retool for regular people who might be interested. It needs to sound like something people would want. Because right now the only people who would really have a clue as to what you are talking about are people who have been following your story to begin with. And if they’re friends, they’re not going to be impolite and tell you this stuff.
Well, I’m your friend and it’s time for some tough love. 25 days of a 60 day campaign have passed and you’ve got $405. I guess you all could go to a nice New Year’s celebration, but I don’t think that was your goal.
I sincerely hope that my letter will be interpreted as being intentionally hurtful. It is not. It’s an honest attempt to get you to see some serious mistakes in your blueprints right now that there are still fixable. I want to see promotion and relegation succeed. And I believe the time, effort and passion you’ve put into this project makes you as good candidates to lead this project as anyone else. But if you truly want to lead this project, I’d say stop hiding in the bubble. Start asking for help. Not money. Help. Ideas. Advice. Work with others. When folks believe they have all the answers, they set themselves up for a screw-up of epic proportions. You have a little over a month to correct missteps that can leave your footing uncertain.
Because when I get asked why I’m not vocally supporting your project, I’m not going to lie.
— Robert Burns (@RobertWFD) November 7, 2014
As I have said, I support pro/rel as hard as anyone else out there. But when people ask me why I don’t support this project, it’s because I’m not seeing an endgame. I’m not seeing a basic goal. “Pro/Rel for Everyone” is a great slogan. But if you publicly plan to make it happen, regular people have every right to ask you how you plan to make that happen.
There’s still time to change the message, but right now the answers make me nervous.
Your friend, though I may have said some upsetting stuff,