Leeds United Supporters Trust voice criticism of club's new Socios partnership

Leeds United's new partnership with Socios.com has been met with scepticism by supporters.

Saturday, 7th August 2021, 6:00 am
CRITICISM: Of Leeds United's new partnership with Socios from supporters. Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images.

The Whites are the fourth Premier League club to announce a commercial partnership with the app that aims to allow fans to buy tokens in a digital community and have their say on certain club issues.

Around 48 sporting organisations have signed up to the scheme so far - including the likes of Barcelona, PSG, Inter Milan and Juventus - with the latter allowing those with tokens to vote on goal music inside the Allianz stadium in Turin, as one example.

To buy tokens, supporters have to use Socios's own cryptocurrency - Chiliz - and there is no limit to the amount that can be bought by any individual.

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Leeds United and Socios say that fans will be able to access club related content and participate in interactive votes among other things, such as taking part in quizzes and online competitions against opposition fans.

The Leeds United Supporters Trust have been vocal in their opposition to the new partnership which was announced on Thursday, believing any attempt at fan engagement shouldn't be monetised.

The fans organisation also released a statement outlining their reasons as to why they hope the club would reconsider the deal.

"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," the statement read.

"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."

The Trust went on to praise the current ownership that is in place at Elland Road for getting a lot of key decisions right, but felt it had to make a stand against the latest commercial partnership.

"With the current ownership regime, we’ve seen many great initiatives and increasingly we feel united," the statement continued.

"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."

Critics of the scheme point to the fact that it charges fans for influence on their club through the use of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in what has been described as under the "guise of fan engagement."

It works similarly to the stock market, so can be up and down for investors and fans. It has also brought attention back to the recent collapse of Football Index earlier this year.

Leeds United’s press release says the new partnership - like the four other top flight clubs signed up - is fully focused on a new way of fan engagement but the Whites declined to comment on opposition voiced by fans and the Trust.

All existing MyLeeds members and season ticket holders have the option to receive a free $LUFC Fan Token for a limited time.

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Thank you Laura Collins