Digital footy startup backed by soccer stars raises $3 million

- June 20, 2023 2 MIN READ
1FF cofounders Rohit Bhargava and Peter Davis
Melbourne fantasy sports startup One Future Football (1FF) has raised $3 million in a pre-Seed round to launch a global soccer league of 12 virtual teams, including one from Sydney’s Bondi.

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

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

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 from 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 were building clubs for fun and to sell apparel.

“Rather than having to invent 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 a US thing, and it kept on snowballing from there,” he said.

“We’re excited to introduce 1FF to the world and share more details of the brands and athletes involved in 1FF and our teams!”

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

Bhargava points out that Hollywood has already been 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 having lauched less than 3 years ago.

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

“1FF has a unique model that for the first time allows fans to have a share of their favourite teams and players, ultimately making decisions that affect their career development and trajectory”.

Similarly the top 10 esports companies are worth an average of $353 million, up 46% on December 2020 and the duo are hoping to follow suit, having already attracted investment into their teams through Football Co and JSW from athletes across a range of sporting codes prior to launch.

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