Digital footy startup backed by football stars raises $3 million

Melbourne-based fantasy sports startup One Future Football (1FF) has raised $3 million in a pre-Seed round to launch a global football league of 12 virtual teams, including one from Sydney’s Bondi.

The raise was led by Blackbird Ventures with international soccer players Chris Smalling, Patrice Evra and Jesse Lingard, as well as UFC fighter Kamaru Usman as strategic investors.

Launching this week, 1FF features 12 weekly matches across 2 rounds, involving 250 CGI-based players from 88 countries, broadcast worldwide and designed for a Gen Z audience with a shorter attention span.

The teams come from London, Paris, Buenos Aires, LA, India, Indonesia and Japan, along with Bondi FC, owned by tennis star Nick Kyrgios, cricketer Steve Smith, and AFL players Zach Merrett and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti of the Essendon Bombers.

The idea is the brainchild of Ampjar founder Peter Davis and StageLabel founder Rohit Bhargava, host of The Startup Playbook Podcast.

Davis said the original inspiration came from reading a BBC article titled “Why the Most Interesting Clubs in America Don’t Really Exist” and how others built clubs for fun and to sell clothes.

“Instead of having to make up results and rivalries, what if we built clubs around the world that somehow played against each other in a league format and we made this bigger than just an American thing, and it kept snowballing from there,” he said. .

“We are excited to introduce 1FF to the world and share more details about the brands and athletes involved with 1FF and our teams!”

The 250 CGI players have their own attributes, personalities and backstories. Hopefully there’s a Roy Kent and Jamie Tartt out there somewhere.

Bhargava points out that Hollywood is already drawn to the game with Ryan Reynolds investing in Wrexham and Natalie Portman in Angel City FC. Incidentally, 1FF shares some investors with Angel City, which is now valued at $100 million, launched less than 3 years ago.

“As crazy football fans, for over 25 years, we craved a deeper connection and a richer ability to participate in the team and sport we love and that’s exactly what we’ve built,” he said.

“1FF has a unique model that allows fans to share some of their favorite teams and players for the first time and ultimately make decisions that impact their career development and trajectory.”

Similarly, the top 10 esports companies are worth an average of $353 million, an increase of 46% from December 2020 and the duo hope to follow suit, having previously attracted investment in their teams through Football Co and Athletes’ JSW in a series of sports codes launch.

Season 1 of One Future Football kicks off on June 23.