Despite the failure of their foray into the murky world of NFTs, Liverpool FC appear to be pressing on with their ambition of becoming financed by digital tokens.
It has been widely reported that once the Reds’ current shirt sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered comes to an end at the end of the 2022/23 season, they will explore the possibility of partnering with a brand from the cryptocurrency space.
It would be the first time that Liverpool have had to negotiate a shirt sponsorship deal since 2018 – the world has changed beyond recognition since then, and reports suggest that the Merseyside outfit’s commercial team are willing to open discussions with firms from all manner of sectors….as long as their target of £70 million is reached.
It comes at a time when the number of betting firms sponsoring Premier League clubs – 9 out of 20 have a gambling operator’s logo on the front of their playing kit – is coming under increasing scrutiny, while Leicester City’s shirt sponsor, FBS, is a platform via which people can buy and sell shares, foreign currencies and the like.
The difference is that those industries, whether morally agreeable given the number of children that actively engage with their favourite clubs, are regulated by nationally-recognised bodies – for now at least, cryptocurrency trading is something of a Wild West in which well-meaning individuals can lose a lot of money in the blink of an eye.
Any such deal that Liverpool sign would be a first for the Premier League, and you do wonder how the growing encroachment of digital currencies and ‘fan tokens’ on the beautiful game will ultimately play out.
A Brave New World
While crypto is unchartered territory as far as front-of-shirt sponsorship is concerned, six Premier League clubs – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leeds United and Manchester City – have already inked deals with the controversial ‘fan engagement’ platform Socios.
Their business model is to generate revenue for their partner clubs by selling fan tokens, which give supporters the chance to engage in all-important matters, like voting on what song is played after a goal is scored or what inspirational message is daubed on the wall of the club’s training ground.
The Socios model has created some notable successes in world football – PSG partly-financed their deal for Lionel Messi through fan tokens, but the concept has not been met with overwhelming positivity.
Indeed, Crystal Palace fans held up a banner decrying Socios as ‘morally bankrupt parasites’ during their game with Everton, so it would be fair to question whether football supporters really want to engage with these new ideas.
There can be legal ramifications too, with Arsenal stung by the Advertising Standards Agency after their promotional campaign for Gunners fan tokens was said to ‘trivialise investment’ and ‘took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity.’
Liverpool have reportedly turned down millions of pounds to launch a fan token scheme of their own for fear that supporters could be manipulated by so-called ‘pump and dump’ schemes that could leave them significantly out of pocket.