CFC links with more in­vestors, may go pro

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - Con­tact Gene Hen­ley at ghen­ley@times­freep­ress.com. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @gene­hen­ley3. BY GENE HEN­LEY STAFF WRITER

Af­ter work­ing in si­lence in re­cent weeks, the Chat­tanooga Foot­ball Club has come out on the of­fen­sive.

The Na­tional Premier Soc­cer League club re­cently ac­quired a part­ner­ship with Lamp Post, a lo­cal in­vest­ment group. The an­nounce­ment comes on the heels of mul­ti­ple re­ports the Chat­tanooga club is one of 12 am­a­teur fran­chises that will be part of the NPSL’s new pro­fes­sional divi­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Front Row Soc­cer, the league will kick off with a Founders’ Cup, a com­pe­ti­tion that will run from Au­gust to Novem­ber of 2019. The pro divi­sion then will have a full league sea­son from the spring through Novem­ber.

CFC would not con­firm the re­ports, but the an­nounced part­ner­ship with Lamp Post would sug­gest it’s pos­si­ble if not likely. Lamp Post was spear­headed by the founders of Ac­cess Amer­ica, and it wouldn’t be the first time the group had in­vested in a lo­cal sports team. In 2015, it joined Hard­ball Cap­i­tal and other lo­cal in­vestors in ac­quir­ing the Chat­tanooga Look­outs.

In ad­di­tion, mul­ti­ple sources have told the Times Free Press that CFC is “very close” to an­nounc­ing a new deal with Fin­ley Sta­dium, the site of its home matches. The club has been with­out a deal since the end of Septem­ber.

“We are hon­ored to have Lamp Post join­ing the team. Lamp Post’s part­ners epit­o­mize how Chat­tanoogans in­vest in Chat­tanooga-based busi­nesses and other ven­tures,” CFC in­terim pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager Shel­don Griz­zle said in a news re­lease. “We’ve known the Lamp Post team for years, and we are so ex­cited about the en­ergy they bring to the ta­ble. Ev­ery­thing they have been in­volved with in town is bet­ter be­cause of it.

“They will make a dif­fer­ence.”

This year was CFC’s 10th sea­son of am­a­teur soc­cer, with the club hav­ing won five con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships and hav­ing fin­ished as na­tional run­ner-up four times. It’s been a long off­sea­son, one that started af­ter a loss in the con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship match, CFC’s sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son of not mak­ing it out of the first week­end of the NPSL playoffs.

For­mer gen­eral man­ager Sean McDaniel left and took the po­si­tion of pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of the Chat­tanooga Red Wolves, a team that will play in the United Soc­cer League’s newly formed League One start­ing next year. Griz­zle, who had moved into more of a board po­si­tion while over­see­ing a num­ber of promis­ing busi­ness ven­tures, took over McDaniel’s for­mer role in the in­terim.

The club has been in­ter­ested in a move to a pro­fes­sional divi­sion for a cou­ple of years but has been de­ter­mined to find what it felt was the “right fit.”

It ap­pears CFC may have found it.

“Bring­ing in Lamp Post is the next step in build­ing a solid foun­da­tion for Chat­tanooga Foot­ball Club as we set our sights on the club mov­ing to the next level,” CFC chair­man Tim Kelly said in the re­lease. “Lamp Post and its part­ners have done so much for Chat­tanooga, and we are pleased they are join­ing our team at this cru­cial time.”

STAFF PHOTO BY C.B. SCHMELTER

Chat­tanooga FC’s Ever­son Lima, right, eyes the ball dur­ing a play­off game against the At­lanta Sil­ver­backs in July at Fin­ley Sta­dium. CFC, a 10-year-old club, might soon make the switch from am­a­teur to pro com­pe­ti­tion.

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