Fan token platform Socios.com has partnered with the main European football body, UEFA, which manages the European Champions League, the Europa League, and the European Cup. Socios will become the official fan token partner of the organization and launch associated digital products. In addition, it will become a Regional Sponsor of the Champions League in the U.S. until 2024.
Fan tokens are branded digital assets tied to a blockchain that are minted in a limited quantity and can be exchanged for exclusive perks. In the case of UEFA, this will include VIP trips to UEFA season kick-off events, UEFA headquarters visits, virtual meet-and-greets with UEFA legends, match tickets, merchandise and memorabilia.
However, tokens are a somewhat controversial product for fans because it puts an additional financial barrier on engagement with the team. And in some previous cases, the granted perks were already accessible for free through other loyalty schemes. Like other cryptocurrencies, fan tokens are known for their price volatility.
In the U.S. the story is a little different. Security laws are more strict, therefore there are more risks involved with launching a fan token project. Instead of fan tokens, the platform’s strategy in the U.S., at least for now, has been to sponsor sports clubs to expand brand exposure. And as part of the UEFA deal, it will be a sponsor of the organization in the U.S.
For Socios, sponsoring UEFA in the U.S. is a significant development of the company’s American integration. Until now, Socios has sponsored American teams but has never launched fan tokens for that audience. On the other hand, UEFA has a large fan base in the U.S. despite being based in Europe.
Fans’ initial reaction to UEFA’s involvement with fan tokens has not been too positive. According to a report from the Guardian, they are accusing Socios of being “a company that monetises fan engagement at the expense of match-going fans,” and there are concerns over UEFA’s involvement with the largely unregulated cryptocurrency industry.
Last year, a group of top European clubs announced the formation of an independent Super League. The concept threatened smaller clubs in domestic leagues and highlighted the for-profit motives of large clubs with little regard for fans or the sport itself. The Super League received intense backlash from fans, leagues, and UEFA itself to the point that it was completely dismantled in a little over a week. Hence this initial feedback is notable.
In response to the backlash, a UEFA spokesperson stated that the “regional sponsorship and global licensing agreement will not affect Uefa’s strong commitment to continuously engage and discuss relevant matters of interest directly with fan organizations.”
Meanwhile, UEFA’s Euro 2020 Cup was sponsored by AntChain blockchain, and the organization had planned to trial the use of blockchain to fight counterfeits in over one million tickets. As for Socios, it has recently partnered with Italy’s Serie A and is involved in a legal dispute with Binance over their sponsorship of Argentinian football.