The New England Revolution have a new sponsor.
The club announced last week that New England’s training center will now be called the Socios.com Training Center and the company’s name will also appear on all official Revolution training apparel.
“We are excited to partner with the pioneering team at Socios.com, a global leader in cutting-edge fan engagement, to offer new and innovative experiences for our fans to connect with their club,” Revolution President Brian Bilello said. “The Revolution look forward to collaborating with Socios.com to enrich the fan experience both virtually and at the stadium, providing them with more access to their favorite club and players than ever before.”
The company describes itself as a “direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform that leverages blockchain technology to provide the world’s leading sporting organizations with the tools to engage with and monetize their global fanbases.”
Socios.com boasts partnerships with clubs such as São Paulo, Paris St. Germain, Juventus, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, and A.C. Milan. The creators of “Fan Tokens” allows you to own a share of influence of your team, influence team decisions, and earn rewards.
Are you a crayon flag fan who wants to stop the rebrand in its tracks? Do you want the Revs to go get Messi? Well do I have the service to make you think you can do that.
As an investigation from The Athletic showed, token holders simply vote on songs that can be scored after a goal or messages that can be on captain’s armbands. Token holders don't get to be involved with transfer decisions or any sort of match tactics.
A source from Barcelona told The Athletic that fans are making more of an impact on the content that the club creates rather than the on-field product.
“Questions about which fans are asked are focused on the digital side, the creation of content and different PR (public relations) activations,” the source said. “In no case (will) token holders will be consulted about the running of the sporting side of the club or business decisions.”
But blockchain technology isn’t exactly squeaky clean. It has already been found that individuals have used the technology to launder money according to a CNBC report. There are also gross effects to our environment due to the mining that is required for blockchain technologies.
A study from Cambridge University found that mining bitcoin, the most popular blockchain-backed digital currency, consumes more energy per year than the entire nation of Argentina. Another study estimates that bitcoin’s carbon emissions are on track to equal the entire city of London. Scholars also argue that bitcoin emissions alone could raise the Earth’s temperature by two degrees.
Socios fan tokens are not purchased using standard currency. It requires the intermediary step of buying Socios’ own cryptocurrency, called Chiliz, to purchase a token. The only way to avoid this step is if you are given a token from the club for free.
The “Chiliz white paper” which was released by the company in January 2018 said acquiring Chiliz “is only suitable for financially sophisticated persons.” This makes the target audience of your standard soccer fan quite interesting as noted in The Athletic
Socios has since said the white paper is “not an accurate representation of our product and how the company has successfully evolved since (2018).”
Socios has had even more misleading marketing surrounding the product. After announcing its Arsenal fan token, Socios said using $CHZ to buy the club’s token is “like a foreign currency for when you go on holiday.”
Like a lot of cryptocurrency’s Chilliz is quite volatile. Its value surged in March, then almost halved over a week in April. After being valued near a dollar in the spring, Chilliz is sitting at just more than a quarter in value.
Joey D’Urso of The Athletic spent £100 on 250 Chiliz at close to their peak in April. Within a few weeks, they had halved in value, though they eventually rose to around £67.
Also with it being extremely hard to revert fan tokens back into dollars or other standard currency, fans can be stuck with tokens and unable to get their money back.
“If consumers invest in these types of products, they should be prepared to lose all their money and they are unlikely to have access to any redress or compensation schemes,” a Financial Conduct Authority spokesperson told The Athletic.
Just on the soccer landscape, Socios.com hasn’t existed without controversy either. West Ham United was rumored to partner with the company but uproar from supporters caused that deal to fall through.
West Ham Supporters claimed that the club was trying to monetize supporter engagement and make individuals have to pay in order for their say to be heard. While capitalism in the United States might appear to say otherwise, every fan deserves to have their voice heard.
Socios founder Alexandre Dreyfus didn’t exactly agree with the claims made by West Ham Supporters.
“The messaging of ‘we have to pay to have a say’ is not true,” he told City A.M. “One: the people already engaging in a traditional way get a token for free. Two: some people – just in the UK – are complaining because for the first time they have a say and it’s thanks to us.”
Moving from a healthcare company that has its own inherent issues to a company that is destroying the planet is quite the decision from a team that was rolling in good PR after winning the Supporters’ Shield and not completely messing up a rebrand.
But as the wise members of the clan known as Wu-Tang said, Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
The Bent Musket reached out to the New England Revolution for comment and received none prior to publication.