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Dan Miner: Fan group wants to be a player in Bills’ future

Tim M

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The beer-drinking, Zubaz-wearing diehards who populate Ralph Wilson Stadium on autumn Sundays are the National Football League’s volume business.


When it comes time for billionaires and vested executives to decide the Bills fate in Western New York, it’s likely those fans will be identified by their collective potential to buy tickets, game-day concessions and team gear.


Unless ...


Meet the Buffalo Fan Alliance, a group of local and well-educated young professionals who want a bigger seat at the table.


Several years of meetings and a professional demographics study have helped them isolate an idea which they hope is operational by the first kickoff of the NFL’s regular season in September.


The plan: a fund with contributions from Bills fans that will eventually be available as an interest-free loan to support a stadium project or purchase by a team-friendly owner.


It will be targeted toward a group they’ve researched heavily, which supports the Bills but doesn’t have a game-day outlet for spending. That group consists of fans who live outside of Western New York.


“I think Bills ex-pats present one of the biggest untapped resources for the Bills to stay here,” said Matt Sabuda, president of the group and one of its three co-directors. “Other than buying a jersey, they have no ability or any type of outlet to do their part to keep the team here.”


The Buffalo Fan Alliance will look to raise from $101 million to $170 million. As an interest-free loan, organizers say that amount could save $10 to $12 million per year in the NFL’s debt-heavy financing environment.


They considered a number of options, ranging from an outright one-time contribution to any project (nixed because it would trigger disclosure requirements to which the NFL is opposed) to an anti-trust lawsuit (nixed because they decided it wouldn’t work).


While Bills fans may conjure Zubaz and tailgating, those behind the Buffalo Fan Alliance are serious, and in some cases prominent, professionals. Sabuda is managing principal of a Buffalo-based real estate investment company; CEO and director Brian Cinelli is a trial attorney at Marcus & Cinelli LLP; COO and director Steve Brady is a former investment analyst who’s pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious The Wharton School; CFO Brian Geary is a finance director at Linwood Investment Advisors.


The group’s advisory board includes Del Reid, president of Buffalo FAMBase Inc.; Luke Russert, NBC News correspondent; John Dahlberg, Canisius College professor of communications; and Aaron Adoff, attorney at Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP.


University at Buffalo law school faculty helped establish the framework of the fund and several local law firms have also helped craft the plan. A site selection firm out of Dallas collected demographic information on the Bills fan base.


And a national law firm that’s had experience with NFL transactions will soon be introduced as a partner.


Eric Mower and Associates will be launching a major marketing push closer to the fall launch of the fund.


The specifics: initial contributions will be made to a C corporation and await a “triggering event” such as a stadium deal or ownership change, Cinelli said. At that point, the money will be transferred to a nonprofit entity such as a 501©(3) or 501©(4) and lent to the team. The fund will be overseen by an independent board of directors, and organizers emphasized it would be subject to a number of checks and balances and beholden to its initial mission and bylaws.


Once the fund is paid back, the team may have the option to use the money again. If not, it will be released to predetermined charities.


If no triggering event occurs, the money will be paid back to the initial contributors.


The fund was initially announced on Super Bowl Sunday in February.


“Since then, we’ve been contacted by people from all over the country,” Cinelli said. “We’re starting to cement relationships with Bills Backers organizations across the U.S.”


The Bills boast more than 100,000 registered members of the Bills Backers network, with numerous chapters across the U.S. and other countries.


Both Cinelli and Sabuda said they believe the Bills can be healthy for a longtime in Buffalo — with the right owner and a fair facility project. While it will be Western New York residents who bear the brunt of ticket price hikes and tax rate increases, they believe out-of-towners are primed to make a huge financial contribution.


“I have a level of optimism about this,” Sabuda said. “The Bills are the glue that brings local and ex-pats together. The enthusiasm will be there.”


Link: http://www.bizjournals.com/buffalo/blog/morning_roundup/2014/03/fan-group-wants-to-be-a-player-in-bills-future.html?page=all



Interesting......what do you all reckon on this idea and is it on the level?


Would it help to keep the Bills here?


Would you contribute?

My Adopt-A-Bill for 2013 is WR Mat




(Wet Rubber Mat)


if (ToErr == objHuman)


objForgive = objDivine;


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