Friends, Fans, and Supporters of Chattanooga Football Club,
Greetings as we begin a historic 2019! During the holidays, we had some time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re heading.
Chattanooga Football Club celebrated 10 years of locally-owned soccer.
Bill Elliott has been our coach for 7 years and will lead our team in 2019 as coach and general manager.
We won our seventh NPSL Southeast Conference title.
Thousands of kids are being positively impacted by Chattanooga FC Academy, Chattanooga FC Foundation, Operation Get Active, Chattanooga Sports Ministries, and Highland Park Commons.
Our relationship with Finley Stadium is solid with our first multi-year agreement.
Chattanooga Football Club, seeking a viable, long-term sustainable path to professional soccer, is transitioning from amateur to pro this season.
2018 Year End Season Review
Last year was our 10th season as a locally-owned soccer club in the heart of SEC football country that was started by a group of Chattanooga-based entrepreneurs. People who thought we were wasting our time did not understand our use of the word “football.” We started on a shoestring budget with a crazy idea that soccer could be a tool to bring together diverse cultures in our city. From day one, we believed in an authentically homegrown club for Chattanooga by Chattanoogans.
We kicked off our 10th season with a shocking result against FC Dallas of MLS - a 1-1 draw. The people who braved that frigid February day will forever remember Zeca’s back post header to bring the match even.
In March, we brought dozens of amateur, semi-pro, and professional team ownership groups to Chattanooga for the Summit for American Soccer to discuss a long-term viable way to bring professional soccer to communities around the US. Conversations continued throughout 2018 and are leading to exciting new experiences in 2019, 2020, and beyond.
Bill Elliott returned in 2018 for his seventh season as our head coach, leading our team to its seventh NPSL Southeast Conference championship. Bill is a proven winner at every level he has coached. Our women’s team, led by first-year coach Erin Ridley, won more games during the season than the previous four seasons combined on their way to their first-ever conference title.
Chattanooga Football Club continues to positively impact thousands of kids through Chattanooga FC Academy, Chattanooga FC Foundation, Operation Get Active, Chattanooga Sports Ministries, and Highland Park Commons. Lastly, the all-new Chattanooga Football League launched in September with 420 adults playing soccer in the most diverse, highest quality soccer league in the region. We had over 25 nationalities represented in the league with over 75% of participants being minorities.
Off-Season 2018 Experiences
As details were starting to come together in late July about our club joining the professional ranks, a rival league of the NPSL announced that they were placing a team in Chattanooga. In addition to this, there were questions about the club’s financial stability and the potential of significant changes in our relationship with Finley Stadium. There were a lot of questions in the community about the future of soccer in our region, in particular with Chattanooga Football Club. Here are a few details…
Our relationship with Finley Stadium is solid, and we’ve secured our first multi-year deal in our history with the stadium. We will be calling Fort Finley home for years to come. In August, CFC Co-Founder Sheldon Grizzle was asked by our board to step in as interim general manager to help get our financial house back in order. Since then our board, along with new local investors, have infused new capital and set the stage for our move into the world of professional soccer. And we’re now glad to say Sheldon will continue in the capacity of our President.
Over the last few years, we have looked seriously at various options to take our club to the next level. We talked with owners of clubs in various leagues. We decided that we needed to make our own way, stay local, and continue to grow in a long term sustainable way. We absolutely believe that our patient approach will yield the best outcomes for decades to come.
Looking Ahead to 2019 and Beyond
Our original business plan in 2009 assumed an average of 250-500 people per game. When over 1,500 showed up and withstood a thunderstorm for our first game, we knew we had tapped into something special. Together with you, we’ve accomplished a lot over the past 10 seasons: almost 400,000 fans through Finley’s gates, seven conference championships, three regional championships, one national championship, and a supporter base that is the envy across the country.
Our commitment now, as it has been over the past 10 years, is to put a great team on the field, create an incredible fan experience, represent our city well on the national and international stages, and make positive impacts in our community. Our owners live here, we educate our children here and we invest in the place we call home. Those drivers make us city-centric and long-term viable.
Chattanooga Football Club is positioned for even greater growth. We will continue to be the gold standard growing the game in a smaller market. Here are a few ways we are enhancing the local soccer experience:
We are now a public benefit corporation. This is an important evolution for us because now our legal structure is aligned with our mission-focused model.
Our local ownership group has expanded. For the first time since the creation of the club in 2009, we have added to our ownership group. We now have over 20 Chattanoogans in our ownership group who care deeply about our community and want to see Chattanooga Football Club thrive.
We will be joining the professional world of soccer. Our diligent and steady work is paying off as we transition up to the next level of soccer. We are taking this next step with iconic independent clubs like New York Cosmos, Detroit City FC, and Miami FC.
Our coaches are first-class. We are proud to have two of the winningest coaches in the country on the sideline this year! Bill Elliott and Peter Fuller have nearly 600 wins and two national championships combined throughout their coaching tenures.
CFC Women returning in 2020. With our transition to pro soccer and the loss of Coach Ridley as our women’s team coach to San Jose Earthquakes, we have committed to bring the women’s team back in 2020.
We are back at Finley Stadium. “Fort Finley,” our home for 10 seasons, will continue as our local home for years to come.
International matches are in the works. In our early years, we had a strong commitment to international friendlies. We are excited to return to our roots of bringing diverse communities together to celebrate soccer in our city.
We remain committed to the CFC Academy. In 2012, we started CFCA to help bring together a fractured club soccer system. We are more committed than ever to continue building a strong and unified club for the city.
Please stay tuned— the best is yet to come!
Thank you for your love and support over the years. You have made locally-based soccer a reality. Chattanooga Football Club was built by people of Chattanooga, for the people of Chattanooga and we will continue to grow with our city!
Sheldon Grizzle, President / Co-founder
Chattanooga Football Club
Tim Kelly, Chairman / Co-founder
Chattanooga Football Club