The growing relationship between football and cryptocurrency has yielded another high-profile partnership with Manchester City signing up with 3KEY, a so-called ‘digital asset’ provider.
The Premier League champions will follow the likes of PSG and Barcelona into the unregulated world of crypto, with the French side reportedly paying a chunk of Lionel Messi’s signing on fee using funds generated from their Socios ‘fan token’ project.
A number of English clubs, including Watford and Wolves, are now sponsored by cryptocurrency exchanges or coins – with the Hornets proudly wearing the logo of Dogecoin, a token that initially started out as a joke, on their sleeves.
Less is known about 3KEY, although the firm describes themselves as a ‘decentralized finance trading analysis and advisory technology company’, which somehow sounds both incredibly important and completely meaningless at the same time.
The desire of 3KEY is to ‘educate customers’ and ‘simplify the DeFi space and market’, according to a posting on the Manchester City website.
“As a global organisation, Manchester City is continually looking for ways to further build the club’s presence in international markets,” said a ‘delighted’ Stephan Cieplik, who is the vice president of global partnerships at the Etihad.
“We are excited to partner with 3KEY in their journey to simplify the decentralised finance (DeFi) trading analysis user experience, through the power of football to engage with our fans with a range of content and activations.”
There are very few details about 3KEY, who were reportedly only founded one month ago.
It may all be legitimate and a fruitful partnership that lasts a long time, but it may just unnerve City supporters that their club has buddied up with a brand that very little is known about and who are operating very much in the shadows.
A Question of Taste
One of the things that’s interesting about crypto-related products is that they are completely unregulated, meaning that there can be an ‘anything goes’ approach in this mysterious world.
Many brands operating in the space are legitimate enterprises looking to make the most of this developing niche, but the same accusation could not be levelled at all of the firms looking to make a quick buck beyond central governance and control.
The upshot is that footballers like Lionel Messi and now Kevin de Bruyne and co is that they are legitimising a product that has no rules or regulations attached to it – in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority is powerless to act, and people have and will continue to lose their money via scam investments.
Some cryptocurrency traders are also coming up with ‘pump and dump’ schemes – that is, buying a particular coin cheaply, getting an influential figure to promote it via their social media channels, and then selling their coin holding at a much-inflated price. Thiago Silva, the Chelsea defender, admitted he knew absolutely nothing about the MiniFootball token he was asked to promote.
And those within the beautiful game are the perfect prey as ‘investors’ too, and the situation is so rife that the PFA has set up their own support system for footballers gambling on crypto.
As pressure mounts on the government to ban regulated betting firms from sponsoring English clubs, isn’t it only right and proper that obscure crypto brands get shown the red card as well?