Liverpool are weighing their options regarding shirt sponsorship, but should they even consider a cryptocurrency company?
If elite-level club football is really an arms race between a shrinking number of superclubs, then some of those superclubs are at a bit of a disadvantage compared to others. There are now two forms of superclub; one type is the huge ‘traditional’ club that has always won trophies (or at least defined that as its minimum level of expectation). They had a huge advantage over everyone with their huge support, especially when the globalization of the biggest national leagues started to pick up speed in the 1990s.
The other type has been around for a long time, but has flourished as the gap between the haves and have-nots of the game has widened: the club funded by the munificence of a wealthy owner. What has changed over time is the amount of money an individual needs to complete this challenge. In the mid-1990s, being a multimillionaire was enough to afford spending that could defy the top. Jack Walker made his fortune from steel, and the money he invested in Blackburn Rovers was enough to snatch the Premier League title in 1995, even though the £25million spent on new players over the course of of the previous three years seem almost ridiculously quaint a quarter of a century later.
Within a decade, the settings had been reset. The hyperinflation of football had led to a situation in which the only realistic way to break the hegemony of the time – which was then held by Manchester United and Arsenal – was to be a billionaire, and preferably one of the most wealthy on the planet. The arrival of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea in the summer of 2003 forever shut butchers, bakers and candlestick makers out of the market. Only the kind of money that results from sucking up a large chunk of a country’s natural resources provides the funding to get a club closer to the top of the table. But Chelsea was just another stop on the road to another destination, and the purchase of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United group in 2008 again upped the ante considerably.
The reaction of traditional giants in England to these fundamentally structural changes has been surprisingly similar, taking into account sales to US venture capitalists and long periods of apparent stasis. Manchester United seem to have conceded to their owners the apparent belief that nothing really matters as long as the share price is right, shareholders are happy and dividend payments continue. Arsenal built a grand new stadium which was destined to propel them near the top of the money league, only to find Manchester City changed the rules shortly after the paint stopped drying at the Emirates Stadium , leading to a period of near-stasis that lasted until those Emirates seats turned pink. Elsewhere in Europe, PSG have joined the ranks of state-owned companies, while the behavior of Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid during and since European Super League proposals landed a year ago has come to a standstill. look like something approaching a midlife crisis.
The third team to make up the triumvirate of traditional English powerhouses is Liverpool, and for some they have bucked the less welcome trends set by Arsenal and Manchester United in recent years, despite having to wait three decades for a league title before to get to where they are now. Like the other two, they also changed hands, going from the club’s traditional ‘guardians’ to rapacious American turbo-capitalists, but the sale of the club to George Gillett and Tom Hicks in 2007 saw Liverpool move rapidly through the process of what is happening. when property goes bad. They were close to insolvency when they were sold to FSG in October 2010, but FSG have been the effective owners of the club, with Champions League and Premier League victories diverting the club from the turmoil and sense of mistrust that have been hanging over Emirates Stadium and Old Trafford for so long.
The appointment of Jurgen Klopp and some clever strategic thinking in the transfer market has put Liverpool back among the most serious, but staying on top is far from guaranteed when rivals have bottomless pockets of investment funds from entire nations and that you have to keep up. The necessary expenses do not only come from the players. In recent years, for example, Liverpool have expanded capacity at Anfield to 54,000 and there are plans to increase it further. But all of this comes at a high price, especially when salary expectations for top players continue to exceed what clubs could reasonably expect to rise by what we might call ‘organic’ means.
It’s no surprise, then, that Liverpool absolutely need to max out deals such as shirt sponsorship. After all, the club has worked very hard to position itself near the world’s top fan lists, and what’s the point if that can’t be leveraged for the club’s financial benefit? Shirt sponsorship is perhaps the most visible sponsorship a football club in the reach of Liverpool can accept. For the past 12 years, Liverpool shirts have been adorned with the logo of banking and financial services company Standard Chartered, but now that the sponsorship deal is coming to an end, and it looks like all options are on the line. table when it comes to finding a replacement… including cryptocurrency.
It is believed that an anonymous exchange company and a blockchain platform have already started talks with the club, but there is no doubt that accepting such a contract would be controversial. Cryptocurrency is a notoriously volatile market, so much so that it is reasonable to consider it a “speculative investment”, and every passing day appears to feature a final victim who had been persuaded they could fly straight to the moon, only to find that decentralized markets can be shark-infested pools. Even at a time when it seems like every other organization in the world is trying to jump on this particular bandwagon – often with little apparent idea of what they’re dipping their toes into – it seems like a risk.
At a time when there is serious talk of banning gambling companies from advertising on football shirts, it seems surprising that this form of gambling is allowed, but crypto may not have yet to sink his hooks into the game in England to an extent that most would even notice. But Liverpool owners may want to remember that the club they own is based in an openly socialist city; there is no guarantee that the signing of such a contract would not cause considerable concern among supporters.
If these companies are offering a vastly greater sum of money than they would get from anyone else, you can understand the reason for dismissing any complaints, but are there even guarantees that the companies of cryptocurrency would offer much more than anyone else? And even if so, how do Liverpool owners assess the criticism they would receive for signing with such a company? A few million pounds a year, for example, would only cover one of their players’ wages for a few weeks. Would it even be worth all the hassle? And financially speaking, what would be the threshold at which it no longer becomes attractive?
The FSGs are not idiots. In the wake of last year’s abortive escalation aboard the European Super League bandwagon, they were met with heavy criticism from fans, leading to excuses for curling toes from owner John Henry. But like Matt Stead from F365 said at the time“it’s so dishonest when you know he’ll jump in bed at the next opportunity to make some money; he’s a businessman and that’s what they do”. Liverpool have already have dipped their toe into the world of NFTs earlier this year. The club made a turnover of £1.125m, but that has to be weighed against the fact that 95% of the ‘LFC Heroes Club’ collection went unsold, which is not exactly the case. his as a success. But a sponsorship-level partnership with a crypto company goes far beyond even that, and the club’s reputation would suffer serious damage if it signed up with a sponsor who then found itself in hot water.
No one denies that following state-funded clubs will be difficult, if not impossible, for everyone, but there should be other ways to level this particular playing field that don’t force clubs to throw themselves in the cesspool that is unregulated finance. Alarm bells are already ringing at how football’s insatiable appetite for money to throw at the game’s bonfire is corrupting the game, with no apparent oversight of club-made deals or potential costs down the road. But this unregulated market remains a bear pit where those who get ripped off are regularly cast aside in an endless quest for new brands, destroying the environment as they go. The sooner gaming and cryptocurrency sponsorships and NFT sales are banned from football once and for all, the better.