Soccer in the Sky: Santa Barbara Sky Football Club is Here
It was a scene of blue skies surrounded by the fire-red roof tiles and off-white walls that color our area’s distinctive architecture while on the rooftop of the MOXI. A crowd was gathering around appetizers and drinks to wait for the official announcement – professional soccer is coming to town. Welcome to the Santa Barbara Sky Football Club (SBSFC).
In anticipation of the announcement, guests held up scarves adorned with the team crest – a proud and graceful depiction of Saint Barbara – the town’s namesake. Funny enough, it was those same hues seen from the MOXI that inspired the colors and logo for the club. “The terracotta of the rooftops in our colors, the midnight blue of the dark skies we get as we face south without a lot of ambient light coming out of here, and even the shape of the crest represents the shapes of the mission window, as you see in the architecture here,” said Peter Moore when we spoke the day before. The club will play its home games at SBCC’s La Playa Stadium and the remarkable views from the arena promise to only accent and amplify the colors and spirit of the team.
Peter Moore is currently the individual seed investor for SBSFC, having a unique background that makes him well-suited for the task. Starting off as a traveling shoe salesman in Southern California, he remembers coming to the area to sell shoes to the now-defunct Copeland Sports. He would later work for Reebok as Senior VP of Global Sports Marketing before becoming a legend in the video game industry as President of Sega of America, followed by VP of Microsoft’s Entertainment Business division where he oversaw the development of the Xbox and Xbox 360. It was while working at Electronic Arts that he left his COO role there to become the CEO of Liverpool Football Club (LFC), a childhood fantasy considering he was born and raised in Liverpool. He oversaw LFC from the beginning of 2017 to 2020, when his three-year tenure was up, moving to Montecito full time in December of 2020.
The United Soccer League’s League One had already been in discussion with the town when Moore was first approached about it in 2021. Now, he is hoping to bring the same career insight and experience to Sky FC as he did for LFC. His experience with the video game industry also helped him navigate one of the world’s most popular football clubs. “One of the lessons I learned was the management of these massive communities of people thirsting for information, that were kind of emotionally involved in your product – and no different a gamer in that situation than a soccer fan.” During his tenure as CEO of LFC, they won the UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and the Premier League. Their popularity and success led to him overseeing the establishment of TV studios and media programs to continually feed fans the info that they craved.
Joining the League
Santa Barbara Sky FC will be a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the largest professional soccer organization in North America, consisting of three professional leagues as well as two national pre-professional leagues and two national youth leagues. The men’s Sky FC will be part of the USL’s League One, the nationally-sanctioned third division of American soccer that is made up of 11 teams in the 2022 season, with more details to emerge over the coming months on the women’s Sky FC team and their participation in the women’s USL Super League.
SBSFC’s establishment in the area is part of a larger League One expansion that is currently communicating with 40-plus communities, sized between 150,000 and one million residents. This expansion comes at an opportune time – “There’s a lot of moving parts in the world of soccer right now with the growth of the game, not only here, but globally. World Cup this year is in Qatar in November and December. But perhaps more importantly, right here in North America in 2026,” says Moore.
With the inaugural season set for March of 2024 and running through October, the front office and technical staff will be getting hired in the first half of 2023 with the SBSFC’s Club President to be announced in the beginning part of that year. Player recruitment will begin in the third quarter of 2023 while they build the club roster, even hosting a public tryout as the inaugural 2024 season approaches. Moore and the crew recognize the local talent and passion this area has for the sport, and want to ensure that nearby pros have the opportunity to try out, and hopefully join the club.
The Local Colors
While SBSFC will likely start off with somewhat fewer than the tens of millions of followers LFC has around the world, the hope is that with time, locals will have the same intergenerational love for Sky FC that Moore felt as a child growing up in Liverpool – kicking a “tennis ball around the back streets” and doodling the players in school while fantasizing about joining the team. “One of the things that I want to build here with our team is this view that kids here will wake up in the morning and they want to play for the Santa Barbara Sky FC,” he adds. And this is something that both himself and League One believe. The USL has made a dedicated effort towards equality in the sport, establishing the “first and only youth-to-professional pathway for both women and men.”
“One of the things we intend to do here is to build a charitable foundation that will run concurrently with the club itself,” says Moore. He views this as “critical” and mentions that professional teams shouldn’t “just take” from the community and that “you have to give as well.” These aren’t just idle words. During his time at the helm of the LFC, he established the Peter Moore Foundation that helped support numerous charitable causes throughout Liverpool. And that same giving spirit is already being brought the area, with SBSFC announcing the establishment of its philanthropic arm (or foot) of the club, La Fundación del Cielo, to support disadvantaged groups within the local community.
While much has already been developed, and they are actually further along than most clubs when they make their initial announcement, Moore and the founding crew still have some work to do – for both the foundation and the team. In the coming months, they will be announcing future plans and looking for further funding, with Moore as the sole investor so far. Of course, with the love our area has for its surroundings, soccer, and the inherent charitable nature of our community, it will be exciting to see who steps up to support the club and its colors.
The foundation will act as a means of supporting those in need within the community, but the team and its success on the field has another way of supporting everyone within its locale. Moore wants to “Give kids in this area this opportunity to, as I did as a kid growing up in Liverpool, dream of playing all the way to the top level. Now, very few of us do – myself not included. But from the perspective of being able to provide a pathway.” With the foundation, they want to make sure that any child who wants to play the sport – can – and not be limited by funds, transportation, or access.
One of the hopes is that this foundation doesn’t just instill a similar youthful passion for soccer but builds in them the affinity and aspiration for their home team. “I want [kids] to wake up years from now and say, ‘No, I want to play for the Santa Barbara Sky FC and I want to play right there on Cabrillo Boulevard at La Playa Stadium.’ And I think that providing a platform to fulfill the hopes and dreams of young people here in Santa Barbara is something that is key,” Moore added with passion in his voice – and a twinkle in his eye – or was that just a glint of the Santa Barbara Sky (FC)?
Visit santabarbaraskyfc.com for more information.