BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace co-owner Steve Parish has said that the recently-launched Crystal Palace ‘fan token’ is of “no real intrinsic value”.
Speaking at the FT Live ‘Business of Football Summit’ yesterday in London the Eagles chairman discussed the club partnership with cryptocurrency firm Socios which has led to widespread opposition and condemnation from their fanbase.
After the deal was announced last December, supporters group ‘Holmesdale Fanatics’ held up a banner with the statement ‘Morally Bankrupt Parasites, Socios Not Welcome’ at the following home game against Everton, while long-term fanzine ‘Five Year Plan’ urged all fans of the Eagles to ‘say no to Socios’.
In September 2020, the club announced a partnership with IQONIQ, a cryptocurrency ‘fan engagement platform’, but the club is understood to have suspended the partnership in February 2021 before the launch of any fan tokens or promotions after payments from IQONIQ were missed, the business subsequently went into liquidation in January.
“We have a product from Socios. We give every fan a token, they get to vote on certain things within the club. It’s a form of fan engagement, without shareholding [and] it can be a very positive thing,” said Parish.
“This is not something to speculate on,” he added. “With all of the cryptos that there are in the world it strikes me as weird that people think any particular one will rise in value and have any sustained value. I don’t profess to be an expert, but I’m told by most people there are, that there’s only a couple of games in town really in terms of true crypto and value.
“On the football side of things, as long as it’s seen as a fun thing and it’s something as a way you can participate in a club, rather than a product that you heavily speculate on and you think that there’s a way of making money on.
“In the end, linked to football clubs, these things have no real intrinsic value. You don’t own a piece of the football club. You get a right to vote. As long as it’s seen in that way then I think it’s fine.”
Parish then responded to accusations that football as an industry and the clubs have not done enough to highlight the potential speculative risks involved with cryptocurrency in the current, unregulated UK market. Arsenal recently broke advertising rules with their own fan token promotion after being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
“For me, it’s hard to understand, in a way, why anybody would think that this was a sort of tradable commodity that might go up in value,” said the Palace co-owner.
“For us, it’s a fan participation element. It gives you a right to a vote on some things within the club. It’s fan participation which is what we all want to get closer to.
“We certainly wouldn’t be promoting it as anything which is a financial product or a product that you should look at as a way of making money, and if that’s not being made clear enough by football and by the clubs, and people are entering into it in that way then that is something we should look at.”
Parish then turned his attention to ‘Non-Fungible Tokens’. NFTs are essentially one-off, digital assets of real-world objects like videos or pictures and can be bought and sold online, usually with cryptocurrency.
“Clearly there is a big opportunity with NFTs,” said Parish. “Most of our physical things that were on paper we tend to now store in our computer. It means we don’t have to go and look for it in the attic or wonder where we kept the thing that might now be worth £10,000 pounds.
“There’s definitely something there. On the fringes of it I find it difficult to understand sometimes what people are buying when we’re talking about clips of video. Do you buy the right to monetise it? Can we still use it on our club channels?
“All of those things, I think it becomes a bit more nebulous for me. When people are buying virtual houses for £64million. I don’t quite get it.
“But certainly in some areas, I think that there’s real tangible things and you can understand supporters would want to do them and they would see a value in them and I think it’s something that we’ll embrace in the right way.”
Steve Parish was talking as a panellist at the FT Live ‘Business of Football Summit’, in the ‘View From The Top: What will be the shape of the recovery?’ session on Thursday 3 March. https://businessoffootball.live.ft.com/agenda