Liverpool are testing the water among fans over such things as NFTs and cryptocurrency as they eye new revenue streams.
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have become big business, particularly in sport, in recent times with numerous clubs across Europe getting involved in a potentially lucrative market where people pay good money for unique, collectable digital assets such as artwork, pictures or highlights, with the asset using blockchain software to prove its scarcity, which in turn gives it value.
Other areas such as fan tokens through firms such as Socios, where fans buy tokens to vote in online polls and have access to unique digital features, have also permeated into sport with the likes of Inter Milan, Arsenal and Everton all having official partnerships with the firm.
Athletes have been getting involved with the NFT market individually, with Liverpool stars Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota among those to have made such moves.
As a club, Liverpool have been holding back on diving into such markets, especially given the reputational damage that owners Fenway Sports Group are still trying to repair following the fallout of their part in the doomed European Super League debacle last year.
With strides made forward in terms of real fan engagement and the creation of a new Supporters Board, the club have not been keen to risk undoing some of the good work that has been done.
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But with potentially large sums of money being left on the table, Liverpool have begun the process of sounding out supporter feeling towards NFTs and cryptocurrency.
As part of Liverpool’s efforts to improve fan engagement the club has a ‘Your Voice’ questionnaire sent out periodically, where the views of supporters are canvassed on a whole range of subjects concerning the football club.
Questionnaires are sent out to fans who subscribe to receive them as part of the club’s online research community, with the results helping to shape the debate around what happens behind the scenes at the club.
The most recent questionnaire sent out was in relation to NFTs and cryptocurrency, with the club asking supporters for their views on this new, potentially lucrative but still controversial market.
It asked for supporters to state how they would feel should the club enter into any of these markets in the future, the potential answers ranging from very negative to very positive.
When speaking to the ECHO last year, former commercial director Matt Scammell hinted that any move into such a market would be done after some consultation with fans, and that appears to be the case here.
But with NFTs having received a rather negative response from football fans thus far, and with clubs including Manchester City having ended a brand-new cryptocurrency relationship with the mysterious 3Key Technologies after officials from the start up firm not being able to be found anywhere online, there are plenty of question marks over clubs going headfirst into such markets.
Accusations of NFTs and cryptocurrency and their price volatility potentially putting fans in danger of losing out financially has not sat well, nor has the environmental impact of cryptocurrency, which is ‘mined’ using sophisticated computers to verify transactions, with a lot of electrical energy required. According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index indicates that Bitcoin, the most widely-mined cryptocurrency network, uses 122.87 Terawatt-hours of electricity every year, a figure higher than the Netherlands, Argentina, or the United Arab Emirates.
In the past Liverpool have walked away from some potential relationships with gambling firms and FSG have been keen to try and make sure that the values of the club align with the business that they conduct. And with the Reds having entered into a deal with SC Johnson last year to improve plastic recycling around Anfield and reduce the environmental impact of a matchday, this would be another occasion where they may have to think a little more carefully before entering into any agreement.
With the desire of fans for the club to spend more money on players and wages, the club needs to raise commercial revenues further, and their hesitancy in getting involved with these markets means they are potentially losing out on significant revenue. But with what has happened in the recent past they are erring on the side of caution.
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The ECHO understands that any moves into some of these markets would be discussed with the newly-formed Supporters Board, of which Spirit of Shankly were a driving force in creating, in the coming weeks.
The ECHO also understands that the idea of ‘fan tokens’ through companies such as Socios is not something that the club are willing to engage, the Reds understood to have already received some interest over this stream.
West Ham United fans were vocal in their displeasure over the Hammers’ potential link up with Socios last year, with officials at the East London side eventually rejected the advances and abandoning any deal, losing out on money commercially but improving relations with supporters.
While fan tokens may be off the agenda for Liverpool, the club could seek to find an acceptable way to get into the market in a responsible way that doesn’t run the risk of further reputational damage or fly in the face of club values, although any such move will likely arrive on the back of fan consultation.
When contacted by the ECHO, Liverpool declined to comment in detail but stressed that fan panels and meetings with bodies such as Spirit of Shankly are part of their normal procedures for fan engagement when seeking to understand new topics.