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30th Sep 2021

Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust condemn “wholly inappropriate” Socios agreement

Simon Lloyd

“It’s wholly inappropriate. Fans and clubs should steer clear of it.”

Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust have again highlighted their concerns about the Premier League club’s recently announced partnership with blockchain-enabled fan token platform,

Villa announced the deal in August, becoming one of a raft of prominent football clubs from across Europe to enter into such an agreement with Socios in the past 12 months.

The platform allows fans to use its cryptocurrency, ‘Chiliz’, to buy digital assets known as “Fan Tokens”. The tokens can be used to vote on polls and other issues linked to a football club.

The platform has been criticised by supporters of other clubs for seeking to monetise fan engagement, as well as exposing vulnerable people to the potential financial dangers posed by the unregulated cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust released a statement which echoed these concerns soon after the partnership was announced in August.

This week, with Villa encouraging fans to use Socios to decide the name of a road at the club’s Bodymoor Heath training facilities, they have repeated their condemnation.

“If the club wants to give benefits to supporters, there are plenty of other ways for them to achieve that aim,” Peter Warrilow, AVST chairman, tells JOE.

“Aston Villa hold fan consultation group meetings. If they really want to consult fans on an appropriate name for a road at Bodymoor Heath, they can raise it there and get feedback from a significant number of groups representing supporters. Why do we need Socios?

“I think it’s a product that should not be aimed at football supporters. I worked for one of the major banks for over 40 years and I think cryptocurrencies are an abomination, to be honest.

“So few people understand them, there isn’t any basic structure to them, there’s no underlying assets in the event of problems and they’re subject to fluctuations in value over which most people will have no control.

“It’s wholly inappropriate. Fans and clubs should steer clear of it.

“I don’t see any major benefit. We don’t see it as appropriate for the football club. It seems to me like an unbalanced relationship, and that Socios are the ones who will ultimately profit from it.”

Although the statement in August welcomed further communication with the club about the partnership, there has been no direct contact since with no consultation meetings held in that time. Warrilow expects it to be high on the agenda for many supporters’ groups at the next meeting.

Leeds United Supporters’ Trust expressed similar concerns when their club entered into a commercial partnership with Socios last month. Previously, West Ham United also signed a deal with the platform, only for it to be cancelled after supporters vehemently opposed it.

Despite this, the platform’s presence in the game has continued to rise. As well as multiple partnerships with prominent clubs in England, Socios became the new front-of-shirt sponsor of Inter Milan in the summer following the expiration of a long-running deal with Pirelli.

Paris Saint-Germain – another Socios club – also gifted Lionel Messi fan tokens following his high-profile arrival from Barcelona in the summer.

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