Aaron Schatz on Good Morning Football in 2020. Aaron Schatz on Good Morning Football in 2020. (NFL.com.)

After 20 years running Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz is moving on from the site he founded. Schatz (seen above on NFLN’s Good Morning Football in 2020) announced that news on Twitter Thursday:

The paragraphs at the end there are the most notable. They include discussion of what’s ahead for Schatz, and discussion of what’s ahead for key metrics FO has developed, such as defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) and defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR):

“Football Outsiders plans to continue without me, and I wish the best of luck to everyone I leave behind at the website. It’s always going to be my baby, even if I’ve made the difficult decision to move on.”

“I’m sure there are a lot of questions about what happens to DVOA and other metrics without me at Football Outsiders. For the most part, those isuses have been decided, but a few small things still need to be settled. I will be using DVOA and DYAR wherever I land after this, but I can’t discuss some of the details until we’ve fully established the new status quo.”

“What comes next? In the long term, I’m a free agent weighing several options. If you are interested in my writing and analysis, my Twitter DMs are open. In the short term, there are some plans and I will be announcing more about that tomorrow. For now, I’ll just say one thing.”


Football Outsiders has undergone some changes over the years, particularly in the last five years. Kentucky-based stats and analytics company EdjSports acquired the site in 2018, and Toronto-based Champion Gaming acquired EdjSports in 2021 (and then conducted a reverse takeover of Prime City One Capital Corp). Under that ownership, there have been some cross-promotion moves for FO from Champion Gaming, including having ESPN/ACC Network reporter Katie George contribute to the site at one point as part of her wider Champion deal.

But the Champion ownership has become particularly controversial recently, especially around non-payment of freelancers. That led to a group of writers taking their case public in April:

And later in April, that led to a Defector piece by Laura Wagner (now at The Washington Post) titled “The People Who Acquired Football Outsiders Are Screwing The People Who Built It.” Some key parts of that:

From the optimistic tone of the corporate missive—CEO Graham Simmonds offered a sunny quote, saying that Football Outsiders was “extending the brand’s footprint with football fans” by offering new resources, like more sports betting content, in order to “continue our growth trajectory”—a reader would have no idea that the company is, in fact, in serious financial trouble.

Most troublingly, Champion Gaming has been refusing for months to pay a group of freelance writers thousands of dollars for their work, work that directly contributed to Football Outsiders’ strong year. The timing of the press release stung these writers, as the company was touting the value of their work out of one side of its mouth while claiming financial hardship and refusing to pay them out of the other. “The absolute. Fucking. Gall,” wrote Football Outsiders contributor Bryan Knowles in a tweet responding to the press release.

Champion Gaming’s inability to meet its financial obligations doesn’t end there. Champion Gaming has been consistently late paying staffers, borrowed money at what one financial expert called a “usurious” rate, and has seen its service agreement with TriNet, a payroll and benefits provider, abruptly terminated, leaving employees unsure of the status of their health insurance. Defector spoke to multiple contractors and current employees, reviewed internal company documents, and examined publicly available financial filings in order to piece together a picture of a company with significant debt and a trickle of revenue, and a shaky business plan that seems to revolve mostly around the buzzwords of the day. Champion Gaming describes itself as a “data and analytics company that provides predictive and prescriptive analytical models and win probability applications and statistics in the sports industry for teams, media, fans, and bettors.” What that business model actually looks like in practice isn’t so clear, even to those who do work for the company.

…According to financial documents filed in November 2022, which are publicly available through Sedar, Canada’s securities filing system, the company had little cash flow and was carrying significant debt, especially relative to its revenues. In the first nine months of 2022, Champion Gaming reported $969,789 in revenue and $5,619,803 in losses. (All monetary figures cited in the filings are in CAD.) As of Sept. 30, 2022, the entire company had only $55,776 in cash, with even less coming in. As of the same date, the accounts receivable, meaning revenue the company accrued, but which they still needed to be paid, was only $13,911. On page six of the same filing, the company wrote: “These material uncertainties cast significant doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

The company’s main form of cash flow came from issuing equity and borrowing money. In October 2022, Champion Gaming raised $750,000 by issuing 10,000,000 shares. In November, it raised $307,500 by issuing 4,100,000 shares. In September 2021, the company had 3.1m shares outstanding; a year later that jumped to 67.0m—without raising substantial cash. In January, the company borrowed $300,000 at a 20 percent interest rate, plus free stock. One financial analyst, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the company’s financials, told Defector it looked like Champion Gaming was a “shoestring operation” that raised money by “borrowing at usurious rates,” offering “highly dilutive equity rounds.”

The financial situation does not appear to have improved much since then. Consider this press release from June 30:

Toronto, Ontario–(Newsfile Corp. – July 5, 2023) – Champion Gaming Group Inc. (TSXV: WAGR) (“Champion Gaming” or the “Company”) announces that, further to its press releases dated April 17, 2023, May 2, 2023, May 16, 2023, May 30, 2023, June 13, 2023 and June 27, 2023, it is providing a default status report in accordance with the alternative information guidelines set out in National Policy 12-203 – Cease Trade Orders for Continuous Disclosure Defaults (“NP 12-203”).

On May 2, 2023, the Company announced (the “Default Announcement”) a delay in filing its annual consolidated financial statements and management discussion and analysis for the year ended December 31, 2022, together with the related certification of filings under National Instrument 52-109 – Certification of Disclosure in Issuers’ Annual and Interim Filings (collectively, the “Continuous Disclosure Documents”) by the prescribed deadline of May 1, 2023.

The Company is pleased to announce that on June 30, 2023, it filed its Continuous Disclosure Documents and interim consolidated financial statements, management discussion and analysis and related certification of filings for the three months ended March 31, 2023. These documents can be accessed under the Company’s profile at www.sedar.com.

Indeed they can. Here’s the unaudited Champion Gaming financial statement for the three months ending March 31, 2023, from SEDAR (the Canadian Securities Administrators’ System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval). Most importantly, page 2 shows them with just $28,644 (all figures in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified; that’s about $21,000 USD) in cash, $309,689 in total assets, and $5,275,534 in total liabilities at the end of March. Relative to their previous numbers from the end of December, their cash declined by around $20,000, their liabilities rose by around $450,000, and their assets only increased by around $50,000.

A Champion Gaming financial statement for January-March 2023.

That statement also has (page 3) Champion making revenue of $257,132 for those three months and spending $622,927, a loss of $365,795 before interest and $610,660 after factoring in interest, share compensation, and more. And it has (page 16) them still owing $253,878 to EdjAnalytics. And it has further statements about the going-concern and liquidity risk challenges, particularly on page 22:

Liquidity risk is the risk that the Company will not be able to meet its financial obligations as they fall due within one year. The Company’s approach to managing liquidity risk is to ensure, as far as possible, that it will have sufficient liquidity to meet its liabilities when due, under both normal and stressed conditions, without incurring unacceptable losses or risking damage to the Company’s reputation.

As at March 31, 2023 and December 31, 2022, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern primarily due to its history of losses and negative working capital. Liquidity risk continues to be a key concern in the development of future operations.

So there were certainly questions about the future of Football Outsiders even before Schatz stepped away. And while he doesn’t specifically reference Champion’s financial issues (or even that company by name at all) in his statement, his exit shines a further spotlight on the parent company’s challenges.

But, regardless of what’s ahead for Football Outsiders, it’s worth looking back at what Schatz and the site have accomplished to date. He started FO in July 2003, and it was very early to discussion of advanced stats in football. It gained traction on its own at first, then through a partnership with Fox Sports that began in 2005. 2007 saw some of their content appear across Fox, AOL, and ESPN, and they’ve had a partnership with ESPN since 2008. In 2009, Schatz spoke to Deadspin’s Will Leitch about the early days of the site, including working with Michael David Smith (now at Pro Football Talk) and Bill Barnwell (now at ESPN):

I started the site as a side gig when I had another job, and the only other people working on it were some of my old fraternity brothers. So yeah, this is a bit different than what I expected six years ago. The site has grown fairly organically, which has led to some of our infamous server issues, but it’s also kept me from growing eyes that were far too big for my own stomach, if that makes any sense. I didn’t ever want FO to grow too fast and then crash and burn. It’s cool that some of our writers have gone on to bigger and better things. I mean, MDS had written on the Web before FO, but it was his work with FO that hooked him up with AOL and gave him the opportunity to do this for a living now, even though that means he can’t work for us anymore. I wish more people could work for FO full-time, but that would probably entail taking almost all the content on the site to a subscription model, and I’m just not ready to do that right now. So for now, it’s just me and Bill Barnwell.

There’s also a good bit in there about Schatz’s goals for FO, and about them being media- and public-facing rather than team-facing:

The other thing I should point out is that when I started Football Outsiders, the goal was never the better management of NFL teams. It was always the better coverage of NFL teams by the media. The guys in the NFL front offices are smarter than fans give them credit for, and certainly they’re smarter than those guys in the booth on Sunday babbling on about how the team is 8-1 when running back X runs for 100 yards. I’m here to improve analysis of the NFL, to make fans feel like they are a) more knowledgeable and b) more entertained. If teams read our work and apply that to managing their franchises, that’s pretty neat, but I’ll always see myself as a writer first and foremost.

Football Outsiders certainly hit those targets, with advanced statistics (from FO and elsewhere) now a regular subject of discussion for many who watch or cover the NFL. And Schatz has been a key part of that since he started FO. It will be interesting to see where he goes next, and where the site goes without him.

[Aaron Schatz on Twitter; screencap of Schatz on GMFB in 2020 from NFL.com]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.