Yesterday many members and fans contacted the Trust, dismayed at the announcement of the new commercial partnership between Leeds United and Socios, the organisation behind a cryptocurrency-based fan token.
“Fan tokens”, adopted by some of the biggest football clubs across Europe, have been widely condemned by football fans as a means of monetising fan engagement. Using cryptocurrency, fans will be able to purchase $LUFC tokens which will enable them to vote and interact with the club in ways that those without these tokens can’t. Not only will the value of these tokens fluctuate, but non-Leeds United fans will also be able to buy and sell them, potentially profiting financially while many Leeds fans lose out.
With the current ownership regime, we’ve seen many great initiatives and increasingly we feel united. There’s been the odd, rare misstep along the way. On balance those running the club get it more right than wrong and few would doubt their desire to be on the right side of these scales. Even with the very best intentions assessing how fans feel on a topic can be tough.
The Trust acts as a critical friend to the club, being an active part in discussions in these moments as well as many projects that have brought a sense of civic pride and togetherness between the Club, the fanbase and the city. On The European Super League, we stood side by side.
As a critical friend it isn’t the Trust’s place to vet commercial partnerships but rather to highlight when impact on fans may have been either poorly communicated or under explored. We believe that this is one of those moments.
We have received some answers as to what the partnership with Socios represents in terms of engagement and we have been told that opportunities for engagement and interaction will be around reasonably inconsequential topics, and will offer a way for many fans around the world to feel engaged. We feel that there are better ways to engage fans without monetisation, particularly when the monetisation is linked to cryptocurrency.
At the recent government Fan Led Review, LUST spoke passionately about the importance of meaningful fan engagement being enshrined in football law. Leeds United’s partnership with Socios only emphasises that as we believe it isn’t meaningful and could be easily achieved without the underlying risks associated with cryptocurrency.
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 with a desire to increase their engagement in the voting processes, even if this is just for fun. 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.
Fan tokens have been vehemently rejected by fan groups in this country, with the FSA and Trusts at West Ham United and Arsenal strongly opposing the concept. We add our voice to these other groups in expressing our distrust of these tokens and the implementation of cryptocurrency in football clubs.
We welcome further communication and clarification from the club.