Great fan experiences are commonplace in the world of sports, but unless you happen to work in a front office or you’re incredibly wealthy, the opportunity to get truly behind the scenes of a professional sports club are few and far between.
You only have to look at the recent purchases of several of Europe’s biggest clubs to know that soccer - or football, or fußball, whichever you prefer - is moving ever further away from its supporters.
Fan Owned Club aspires to transform the soccer landscape, providing each Fan Owner with the chance to actively participate in the inner workings of a football club. Drawing inspiration from community membership models in Europe, we are bringing this innovative approach to the United States.
In a bold move that will send shockwaves through the world of football, Carrick Rangers F.C. (CRFC) and Fan Owned Club Inc. (FOC) have proudly unveiled an ambitious strategic alliance that promises to propel the Northern Irish club into the international spotlight, particularly in North America, where soccer's popularity has been soaring.
CRFC, in its quest for sustained success and the future of the club for generations to come, is determined to share the magic of Irish football with the world. This momentous collaboration signifies a major milestone in the club's journey, reflecting their commitment to sustainable success and long-term growth.
Nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland in Carrickfergus, the professional club plays their home matches at Loughview Leisure Arena, commonly known as Taylor's Avenue in the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), a league that prides itself on pure football, untainted by the glitz and glamour of commercialization.
NIFL was founded in 2013 and currently represents the top-level football clubs in Northern Ireland, with over 350,000 fans in stadiums enjoying games each season and over 2.5 million tuning into games on TV through BBC Sport NI and Sky Sports.
This season, they're emerging as a team with massive ambitions, and they're not doing it alone. This small, but energetic club is proving that heart and determination can conquer all and capturing the imagination of football fans worldwide.
Led by a passionate American owner, Carrick Rangers is rewriting the narrative and is determined to achieve greatness, with fans as their driving force. They've taken a page out of Fan Owned Club’s playbook and are involving fans in an unprecedented way.
Staying true to the roots of the game and are inviting fans from all over the world to experience football as it was meant to be played, Carrick Rangers are a beacon of traditional football values in an era where the sport has become a global commodity.
Carrick Rangers is not just a football club. It represents the very spirit of football in the region and is a symbol of community, togetherness and the pursuit of sporting excellence.
In 1939, a group of young men met to discuss forming a new football club for the town of Carrickfergus. After agreeing that there was enough interest for the club to be constituted, there was further debate about the name of this new team. In the background of the room they met in, hung proudly on a wall was a picture of Glasgow Rangers. When this was noticed and suggestion made that the new club be called Carrick Rangers there was immediate consensus.
Despite twenty-one seasons in the top division, including a twelve-year run from 1983-1995, the Club has seen success at all levels.
Notwithstanding the two Steel & Sons Cup victories in the 1960s, the Club's most successful period came in the 1970's with the 'Gers winning four 'B' Division titles and two Intermediate Cups with the pinnacle being the team's triumph over Linfield to win the Irish Cup in 1976.
That led to the Club embarking on their only ever European journey — knocking FC Aris Bonnevoie of Luxembourg out of the first round of the European Cup Winners’ Cup before exiting the competition at the hands of FA Cup holders Southampton.
Senior silverware would arrive again in 1993, defeating Glentoran to claim the County Antrim Shield.
More recently, a Championship and Intermediate Cup double in 2010/11, was miraculously topped by a Championship, Steel & Sons Cup and Intermediate Cup treble in 2014/15.
Carrick Rangers returned to the Premiership for the 2019/20 season. With year-over-year improvements under the leadership of manager Stuart King, they have established themselves as a Club capable of breaking into the top half of the league and challenging for a spot in European play.
A lifelong Carrickfergus resident, Chairman Peter Clarke has been instrumental in CRFC's impressive rise in recent years. Clarke's love for his hometown club blossomed early in his life; only a schoolboy when he witnessed the Irish Cup win and subsequent European Cup Winners' Cup exploits of 1976.
The transition from fan to official was made in 2012 when he joined the club's Board of Directors, then becoming Chairman in 2015 and finally acquiring control of the club as an owner in 2018 amidst a particularly tough time.
CRFC had just suffered relegation to the second-division of Northern Irish football in the campaign prior while the appointment of a new head coach and recruitment of a largely new roster had been required through the off-season.
"When the Club was acquired just over five years ago we set short, medium and long term objectives," explains Clarke, "Short term: a return to the Premiership which was achieved that year. Medium term: to enhance the quality of the squad and the general infrastructure of the club. On the field last season, we achieved the most points and highest position in our top flight history. Looking at the infrastructure, significant investment has been made to improve our pitch and upgrade many areas of the ground. Coupled with the council’s strong commitment to replace the stand, which is really at its expiry, we clearly have met our medium term goals.
“I thought our long term goals would have taken a couple more years to achieve but early into the process of meeting Michael and our many conversations together it was clear that he could help us accelerate the long term plans we have for the club."
Under Clarke's stewardship, CRFC has always operated a sustainable model and made continual on-and-off field advances. Alongside Michael Smith, the Board of Directors and the pioneering partnership with FOC, Clarke will continue to be a key player in securing CRFC's long-term success.
Fan Owned Club, known for their innovative approach to promoting football clubs and fostering fan engagement, will provide a broad spectrum of marketing, merchandising, and commercial services on an international scale for CRFC.
Over the next six months, various collaborations will be announced and executed, opening doors to a range of on-and off-pitch cooperation with other FOC-affiliated clubs. Additionally, Carrick Rangers will benefit from Fan Owned Club's extensive global contacts in the football industry.
The remarkable success of Austria's FC Pinzgau Saalfelden under the Fan Owned Club engagement speaks volumes:
A consistently promotion-contending Men's team
A recently promoted Women's team currently in second place in the second division
The establishment of a full-time Bundesliga-certified Academy
Doubling of average attendance at home matches and tripling of sponsorship revenue
Addition of 500+ international "Fan Owners" across eight countries
Fundraised $1.6 million
This strategic partnership seeks to establish Carrick Rangers F.C. as a globally recognized brand, setting the stage for the Northern Irish League's entry into the thriving American market.
Carrick Rangers' American owner defies the stereotype that owning a football club is the exclusive territory of billionaires and Hollywood celebrities. He's passionate about sharing the essence of the beautiful game and is inviting fans, investors and dreamers to join him in this incredible journey.
In August 2023, American businessman Michael Smith became the new majority owner of Carrick Rangers F.C., Smith's objective, working with Chairman Peter Clarke and the Board, is to accelerate the Club's strategy that has produced proven results over the past five years.
"Our goal off the pitch is to be the pride of the community, recognized as a great asset for the entire region. Our goals on the pitch include consistently competing for European spots and winning silverware across all the domestic competitions from the County Antrim Shield to the Irish Cup. We are excited for what lies ahead, but we remain realistic about where we are today. Our approach is to be at least 1% better every day because we're in this for the long haul, committed to the sustainable success of the club for generations to come."
This collaboration will elevate the club's profile on a global scale, aiding in the attraction of talent on-and-off the pitch and driving additional sponsorship income.
With the promise of sustainable and predictable revenue, Carrick Rangers will be in a stronger position to grow its fanbase, both locally and internationally, leading to more merchandise sales and greater value for their sponsors.
Importantly, 100% of profits will be reinvested into the club.
Both CRFC & FOC are committed to making this collaboration a monumental success and ensuring the long-term growth of Irish football, both at home and abroad.
Carrick Rangers F.C., in collaboration with Fan Owned Club Inc., is proud to introduce the CRFC+Fan experience – a game-changing platform designed to immerse supporters in an unparalleled connection with their favorite club. More than just a fan engagement tool, +Fan transforms ordinary supporters into active participants in the journey of Carrick Rangers F.C.
While the formal launch of the CRFC+Fan experience is set for January 2024, early subscribers can take advantage of pre-launch events and exclusive perks, making it the ideal holiday gift for sports enthusiasts seeking an unparalleled connection with their favorite club.
Elevate your support for Carrick Rangers F.C. to new heights with the CRFC+Fan experience. Subscribe now to be part of a global community of passionate fans and share in the excitement, camaraderie, and success of Carrick Rangers F.C.
Imagine having a stake in a football club, being part of a community-driven sports revolution and having a say in the club's future.
Joining our fan ownership movement is easy:
By investing in Carrick Rangers, you're investing in the future of Northern Ireland football and the local community.
We will continue to partner with Wefunder to make it simple for you to invest and get involved.
That's what Carrick Rangers Fan Ownership offers!
Fan ownership ensures that the club remains rooted in the community it serves. We want to engage with local businesses, schools, and organizations to create a positive impact beyond the pitch.
Just as FC Pinzgau's global support became instrumental in their success, Carrick Rangers' fans are poised to take ownership to a whole new level, building a stronger bond between the club and its loyal supporters.
There are hundreds of lower division clubs that are looking to deepen their relationship with their fan base and broaden beyond their local community - specifically what we have accomplished with FC Pinzgau in Austria.
Carrick Rangers F.C. is our second partner club.
We are actively perusing opportunities in valuing the next clubs to apply our proven playbook all across the world.
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