Top European football clubs have raked in more than $200 million by offloading “fan tokens” onto supporters — despite warnings that mixing crypto with football could end badly.
As reported by BNN Bloomberg, clubs including Manchester City, Barcelona, Juventus, Arsenal, Leeds United, and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) have all leveraged crypto’s growing popularity to push revenue over the past year.
Their fan tokens, sold by Malta-based blockchain company Socios, give supporters the chance to vote on minor club matters.
These include the music in the stadium before matches and the decor in certain parts of the ground.
Although, prominent supporters’ clubs have criticized the schemes. They say the tokens exploit fans without providing necessary support to help newcomers grasp the fickleness and volatility of crypto markets.
A gateway to rekt?
In a statement released earlier this month, Leeds United Supporters Trust made clear its feelings about the club’s recent Socios partnership.
“We feel that there are better ways to engage fans without monetization, particularly when the monetization is linked to cryptocurrency,” it said (our emphasis).
“Cheaply priced tokens may be justified as a low-risk and fun way of interacting, however fans may be persuaded to take loyalty to new levels and vulnerable individuals could overstretch themselves.”
Leeds United Supporters Trust addressed the lack of crypto education provided, adding: “Fans will also be obliged to enter into a cryptocurrency ecosystem; something which many may have very little knowledge of.”
“If football chooses to bring unregulated cryptocurrency into the game, we believe that clubs also need to provide education and guidance on the purpose and risks associated.”
A number of other supporter organizations have also voiced opposition.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Socios co-founder Alexandre Dreyfus put forward a compelling argument for — at least from the point of view of the clubs — in that fan tokens bring in cash.
“I understand why people challenge us, but that’s precisely why clubs like us because they see that as an incremental revenue,” he said.
“It’s not cannibalizing any other revenue they have and that’s important. It doesn’t touch ticketing, it doesn’t touch merchandising — it’s an additional revenue for a new type of consumer, which are these digital fans all over the world.”
Still, attempts to flog fan tokens to raise extra funds continue, not just in Europe but across South-East Asia, Brazil, and Turkey, too.
Fan token advertising raises eyebrows
Socios even played a role in Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi’s blockbuster move to PSG. He will receive part of his initial salary in the club’s fan token.
$PSG doubled to hit record highs in the days surrounding Messi’s club switch earlier this month. The price of the token has since fallen about 20%.
Still, Socios claims its tokens are not for investment but engagement. Critics have described them as a “gateway into speculative cryptocurrency” and branded their advertising “completely misleading.”
For example, London club Arsenal has been criticized for likening the process of acquiring its fan token to buying foreign currency for a vacation.
According to the Telegraph, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) hasn’t received any complaints yet but it has urged any fans with concerns to get in touch.
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