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Oakland Roots and Soul Sports Club is doing something very different in sports team history. The soccer club is launching a community investment campaign using crowdfunding.

Enabled by the tech-focused federal J.O.B.S. Act of 2012, crowdfunding rules now enable ordinary investors and consumers to contribute money to certain kinds of campaigns. Some cities have used this in the past to raise funding and consumer support for sports teams.

So the club is gearing up to launch a community investment campaign for its men’s soccer team in the USL Championship League, a pro soccer league.

The campaign is set to launch September 13 at 9 a.m. Pacific time. It will provide an opportunity for local Bay Area residents and fans worldwide to become co-owners of the professional soccer club in a way that is akin to Kickstarter campaigns. Except in this case, the public can have an ownership stake in the club, said Mike Geddes, chief purpose officer of The Oakland Roots and Oakland Soul Sports Clubs, in an interview with GamesBeat.

“We’re trying to show that you can set a purpose in what you’re trying to do,” Geddes said. “That is not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. You will be a better business if you do that. And I strongly believe that the commitment to our purpose that we’ve made has been the reason why we’ve survived throughout all the challenges we’ve had and got to the point where we feel that we’re now the future of sports and on the men’s and the women’s side.”

Oakland Roots wants Oakland to have a team it can root for.

The crowdfunding will last three or four weeks. Fans can invest anywhere from $100 to $25,000 or more.

Geddes added, “The community investment round is really a natural part of this, because we’ve always looked for ways to disrupt the models by which professional sports has traditionally been done. And the concept of ownership. We’ve always tried to have a large syndicate of owners. We want our ownership group to be diverse. In every sense, we think that’s important. And having the community able to have access to that was something we were always intrigued by when we first heard about crowdfunding as equity crowdfunding.”


Oaklands Roots is bringing soccer to Oakland.

The whole effort got going as Geddes moved to Oakland in 2016.

“This really started in 2016, with a group of us, and I’m the only one of the cofounders who isn’t from Oakland,” Geddes said. “But I’ve always worked in soccer, and particularly the intersection of soccer and social impact. And we were talking about the fact that there was a gap in the market for soccer team in Oakland. Oakland is a city with a long history of supporting soccer, and it’s very diverse.”

He added, “There was an idea that we were all soccer fans. We thought there should be a soccer team here. But there was this gathering feeling that the ways in which Oakland had been treated by its sports teams historically wasn’t the right way to do things. We just felt that this model of sports team ownership, where the team can be transplanted to a totally different city at any point, just felt wrong. Oakland is a very proud city, with a blue-collar working-class tradition with deep ties to sports teams.”

In this way, the club founders hope they can bring ownership of sports back to the fans and revolutionize the world of sports investment. At the same time, they hope to reward Oakland fans for their dedication to sports over the years — despite the departure of the Warriors in the NBA, the Raiders in the NFL, and possibly the A’s in MLB, Geddes said.

Oakland hasn’t had the best of luck when it comes to sports teams. But that’s not due to any lack of passion on the fan side, Geddes said.

“We wanted to appeal to fans of Oakland, people who wanted to come out and support a team that represents their city,” he said. “So we have fans from a lot of fans who’ve never been to a soccer game before in their life. And that’s a huge success for us.”

The club started in 2018 got initial support from notable figures such as NFL legend Marshawn Lynch and global rap star G-Eazy, who invested in the club in 2019.

“We’re also very regular people. None of us are billionaires. None of us had any money. We just had an idea,” Geddes said. “We wondered how we are going to make people care about this new upstart team when we can’t bring in billions of dollars. There are all these existing legacy sports teams that have been around for decades and decades. And we just had the idea that what Oakland wants in its sports teams is a real sense that the team cares about the city and puts the city first. So that’s what we’re going to do. We have this idea of building the first purpose-driven professional sports team in the United States. And we have this purpose to harness the magic of Oakland, the power of sports to support a social good. We built the concept for the team around that.”

Then the club got hit by the pandemic. So nobody was able to play soccer. Still, they held together as a soccer club and joined the USL Championship league, which fields competition among Division 2 soccer teams.

Now the community’s turn could raise another $1 million or $2 million, Geddes said. The maximum permitted under law is $5 million.

The Community Investment Campaign aims to capitalize on the recent introduction of Regulation Crowdfunding, which allows anyone to invest in private companies for as little as $100. By investing, individuals will receive equity in the team and have the opportunity to share in its growth and success.

Wefunder platform

Oakland Roots wants Oakland to hold onto a pro sports team.

Starting on September 13, interested investors can participate in the campaign through the Wefunder platform, which has raised over $600 million for community-led businesses. In addition to equity, investors will enjoy perks such as exclusive merchandise, VIP events, and behind-the-scenes access, further enhancing their involvement and connection with the club.

The significance of this campaign lies in its mission to provide an opportunity for community members to invest in a professional sports team, a prospect typically inaccessible to most.

“Oakland Roots and Soul Sports Club is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Akilah Cadet, an Oakland native and CEO of Change Cadet, a DEI consulting firm who will be the campaign’s lead investor, in a statement. “I’ve consulted with companies all over the world and I have never seen purpose and community embedded in every part of an organization in the way that it is here. Now, ownership of a professional sports team, typically not accessible for most, is something our community can invest in.”

Recognized as “the coolest team in the USA” by global soccer magazine 442, Oakland Roots has become one of the fastest-growing brands in American sports, the company said. In addition to the men’s team, the club launched Oakland Soul, a women’s team, and has sold out every home game.

The pre-professional Oakland Soul team is playing in the USL W League, which plans to start a professional league next year. At that point, the Soul team will likely move to professional status, said Lindsay Barenz, president of Oakland Roots, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The club is currently collaborating with the City of Oakland and County of Alameda to bring a 10,000 capacity stadium to the Malibu lot, adjacent to the Oakland Coliseum.

“As soon as we have a stadium that we can program with two fully professional teams, we will elevate Soul to being fully professional,” Barenz said.

At the moment, the Oakland Roots teams play at Cal State East Bay in Haywards as well as Merritt College, she said.

The A’s play baseball in the coliseum, and should they move to another city, it’s possible the Oakland Coliseum could become available. But the intention is really to build the new stadium for soccer.

“We’ve been talking about this since we first heard it was possible,” said club cofounder and Oakland native Edreece Arghandiwal, in a statement. “There couldn’t be a better time to bring ownership of sports, especially sports in Oakland, back to the fans. It’s time for change in the world of sports investment and we want to deliver the biggest community investment campaign ever in U.S. sports.”

The success and resilience of Oakland Roots and Soul Sports Club is meant to be a beacon of hope for local sports fans, particularly in the face of uncertainty surrounding other sports in Oakland. Now, with the Community Investment Campaign, fans have the unique opportunity to invest in the team’s future and contribute to the ongoing growth and development of the organization.

The Oakland Soul women’s soccer team serves as an elite pathway to pro soccer, empowering players while providing a high-quality training environment.

The campaign is led by Geddes, who has a history of using soccer as a vehicle for social change, brings extensive experience and a passion for creating positive impact through sports. He has worked in various roles, including journalist and media trainer for the BBC and managing director for Streetfootballworld, a global nonprofit that leverages the power of football for social good. He moved to Oakland in 2016.

Meanwhile, Sheryl Sandberg, former president of Facebook/Meta, is helping to start a pro women’s soccer club in San Jose, California.

The Oakland Roots and Soul Sports Club has a staff of 40 and it has 25 pro players. It also runs an amateur sports team dubbed Project 510. The club also hires around 100 seasonal workers for the sports games.

“Our goal is to develop local talent in the Oakland area so that people can see a pathway to becoming a professional soccer player,” Barenz said.

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