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Matt Sabuda - Chairman, Sports Fan Coalition, Buffalo Chapter

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Matt Sabuda - Chairman, Sports Fan Coalition, Buffalo Chapter

Matt Sabuda is a graduate from Orchard Park High School and Canisius College. When he’s not busy cheering for local teams or tweeting about sports policy issues @sfcMatt, he is a real estate investor in Buffalo and lives in the Elmwood Village. He is also chair of the Buffalo chapter of the Sports Fan Coalition.

What is the Sports Fan Coalition and how did it start?

The Sports Fans Coalition was created in 2009 by two former White House deputies, Dave Goodfriend (Bill Clinton) and Brad Blakeman (George W. Bush). Its goal is to be a loud voice for fans’ rights.

Several months ago, a number of local attorneys and I began researching some unique initiatives that would allow fans to have a rightful seat at the table. After all, it’s us who buy the gear and fill the stadiums. Yet we don’t have anyone who advocates for us. Owners have their billions, players their unions, and politicians have much broader agendas. The SFC represents a new and powerful voice in a political climate in which the masses are tired of not being heard. The SFC’s executive director, Brian Frederick, who is a big supporter of the issues that affect Buffalo sports fans, asked me to be chairman of a newly created Buffalo chapter. Needless to say, I was thrilled to help out.

What are SFC’s goals?

The broad goals of the SFC’s Buffalo are a reasonable recognition of the importance that we as fans play in the success of our not just our teams but leagues nationwide. Everyone always paints Buffalo as this poor small market, but the reality is that when you include the large contingent of ticket holders and fans in the Rochester market, our market base is closer to 2.3 million people, which is similar to Pittsburgh. That doesn’t even take into account the Southern Ontario and Syracuse markets. Additionally, if you’ve ever gone to an away Bills game in Miami or San Diego, it’s like going to a Sabres vs. Maple Leafs game at First Niagara Center. At Dolphins games in particular, the Bills fans arguably make up a majority of the crowd. Our powerful expat community gets very little credit, yet they are buying tickets and cheering on our teams. It’s this type of reframing of who we are as Western New York fans that we are fighting to change.

Specifically, we are fighting to end the practice of media blackouts at the moment, which Buffalo fans can help by going to

Where are SFC’s other chapters?

The SFC has chapters around the country in cities such New York, Portland, and LA among others. People often think that these issues only affect cities like Buffalo, but the reality is that fans are affected everywhere including big markets where they are not immune from relocating sports teams. Just ask Houston Oiler fans what good a big market does to protect its fans.

How do you hope to involve yourself in the Bills lease renewal negotiations?

It is our goal as the Buffalo SFC gets louder that teams like the Bills will want us at the table when it comes to renegotiate the lease. We offer the only meaningful advocacy outlet nationwide for millions of fans that don’t have a voice. When the Bills renegotiate their lease, we are confident that they will be progressive enough to embrace this changing landscape.

Are you an athlete yourself or strictly a fan?

Back in my high school days, I was a star benchwarmer for the Orchard Park Quakers. I also spent time working for the Bills in their media relations department where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and learn about the business of sports. It was talking to guys like former QB Kurt Warner that inspired me to realize that in a cold business, there is room for people who care to really make a difference. Hopefully fans have had enough of being ignored and are ready to speak up.

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