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Andre Reed joins fan fund-raising project designed to aid Bills

Buffalo Bills Hall-of-Famer Andre Reed has joined the Buffalo Fan Alliance effort, which aims to raise money among fans to help a new owner keep the Bills franchise in Western New York.

Reed, the Bills’ all-time greatest receiver, was among a group of people named today to the alliance’s board of advisors.

The alliance has proposed raising between $100 million and $170 million from fans, who could pay anywhere from $100 to $10,000 apiece. That fund then would be offered interest-free to someone buying the team and pledging to keep it in Western New York, potentially creating an incentive worth around $10 million per year for a new owner.

“The region has supported the team for more than 50 years,” Reed said. “I’m lending my name to this because I want to do whatever I can to help keep the team here.”

“I like this idea,” Reed said. “I think people will jump on board. I think there’s a lot of benefits it would provide a new ownership group. I’m getting to know more about the alliance, and I think this can help.”

People donating to the fund wouldn’t own anything, other than a paper certificate, but they would be investing in the effort to keep the Bills here for the long term.

The fund-raising effort has not yet begun. It’s targeted to begin “in three months or so,” said Matt Sabuda, one of the founders of the alliance.

“We’re in the final stages of having the actual fund structure ready to go,” Sabuda said. “The goal is to roll this out slowly, to bring people like Andre on board, to get fans comfortable with the idea. … We want to build up a comfort level with fans so they’ll feel very comfortable with our structure.”

The alliance’s plans were unveiled in February. The effort all along was slated to begin this summer, and the roll-out was not tied to the death of Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr.

Whoever buys the team, regardless of how much money they are worth, is going to have to finance part of the purchase. The money raised would be lent at zero percent interest to an ownership group that ensures the team would not move. The arrangement, if it raised the desired amount, would offer savings estimated at $8 million to $14 million per year on debt service costs. That’s the equivalent of doubling the team’s current luxury box income.

Sabuda said his group already has met with two potential Buffalo ownership groups that have been vetted by the NFL, and it has a meeting with a third group scheduled. He would not identify the groups. Sabuda said the timing of the sale of the team, expected within a year, should not hurt the alliance’s plans. He thinks a significant total can be raised in the initial months of the effort. So does Reed.

“I’m a voice for the fans,” Reed said. “I’m not in this just to put my name out there and get a bunch of tweets. I think the fans see my name involved in it, and that’s helpful. They want to see some action. I’m 100 percent positive this could help a new owner who wants to keep the team in Western New York.”

Joining Reed on the advisory board are former Bills place-kicker Steve Christie; former Canisius High School and New York Giants wide receiver Phil McConkey; and NBC-TV correspondent Luke Russert.

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