'Morally bankrupt parasites.'
Crystal Palace fan group the Holmesdale Fanatics (HF) have slammed the club's recently announced partnership with cryptocurrency firm Socios, describing it as "a shocking and disgusting proposal that was rejected by the entire fanbase."
The club announced the deal in early December, to a chorus of boos on social media.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 9, 2021
The HF have cultivated a positive relationship with the club since 2010, when a consortium led by Steve Parish bought the club out of financial ruin, but they are never afraid to voice their disapproval at matters pertaining to the club's business or the wider football world - a recent protest saw them criticise Newcastle United's Saudi-led ownership with a visually striking banner.
They turned their focus towards Socios during their home win over Everton, with a banner that read: 'Morally bankrupt parasites, Socios not welcome.'
Who are Socios?
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. Numerous clubs in the Premier League and across Europe have announced partnerships with the crypto brand, with Inter Milan wearing their logo as its shirt sponsor.
Many different fan groups have voiced criticism of Socios, raising concerns that it ignores the local supporter to cash in on a global market, while trying to monetise fan engagement; as well as encouraging supporters into an unpredictable and volatile investment scheme.
Indeed, on Tuesday 21st December, the Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled that Arsenal's promotion of Chilliz fan tokens "trivialised investment in cryptoassets and took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity."
Backlash from other fan groups has led to clubs ditching deals with the brand, though Palace have not yet shown any signs of doing so.
JOE spoke to a representative of the Holmesdale Fanatics to find out more about what the group thinks of the deal, and what it says about the direction football is heading.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the club announce its partnership with Socios?
"It's a shocking and disgusting proposal that was rejected by the entire fanbase.
"Essentially supporters are being blackmailed into joining a speculative cryptocurrency scheme under the facade of what is a cash-for-votes system, hierarchically ranking supporters based on their financial capabilities.
"In terms of the bigger picture, clubs are being positioned as assets to be speculated on in a financial gambling trading structure, one which is open to manipulation and abuse.
"Socios' crypto-based 'fan token' model has no place in football.
"Bear in mind that Palace fans have twice protested and intervened to save our club in recent years - and as supporters, we all remain at the heart of a local, community club. To suddenly be told to 'pay to have a say' via a dubious crypto scheme led to a huge backlash from the fanbase - with a protest banner receiving backing in the stadium.
"Additionally, many fans pointed to the fact that Socios had already been opposed and booted out at other clubs. How can they then be deemed fit for Palace?
"Along with Palace fan group Five Year Plan, and the Palace fanbase - we are making public calls for the club to terminate this partnership immediately."
Your banner at the Everton game described it as 'morally bankrupt,' can you elaborate on this?
"The Palace we see today has been shaped by generation after generation of south Londoners through loyalty, community engagement, activism - and the countless supporters who have passed down values and furthered the club's culture as they've come and gone.
"Overnight, Socios wants to change that relationship and put a price on fan engagement, reducing loyalty, passion and localism to nothing more than a fee within an investment scheme.
"Suddenly concepts that should be alien to English football such as trading, financial manipulation and crypto gambling will all lay down roots within the game. It would further crush the experience of football supporters as Socios aim to capitalise by appealing to a digital-only global crowd.
"To try to monetise and exploit supporters' loyalty and make profit by sucking fans into a crypto scheme under the facade of 'fan engagement' is morally corrupt and has no place in football.
"It was an important banner to display and received backing from the entire Palace support. Notably, it mirrors the position of all fanbases when Socios deals have been announced at English clubs."
We stand alongside @FYPFanzine & all supporters in opposing Socios involvement at our club
This attempt to exploit & profit from fans loyalty through an immoral pay-per-vote crypto scheme is rejected by the Palace support
We call on the club to terminate the partnership.#CPFC https://t.co/tp3DNZUTQa pic.twitter.com/PIPUSfPzhD
— Holmesdale Fanatics (@ultrascpfc) December 15, 2021
What do you think the increasing presence of cryptocurrencies in football says about the direction the sport is moving?
"It's corrupt, unethical and offers glimpses of a dystopian future in which all football clubs care more about their global online followings than they do for the genuine fans whose passion and commitment these very clubs were built on.
"The Socios' tag, "Be more than a fan" suggests supporting your team in the traditional way is no longer enough. In reality it is nothing more than a cynical ploy to sell back the engagement fans already have with their clubs.
"If the likes of Socios embed themselves in the game then not only does it crush, control and monetise fan engagement, but it invites further greedy propositions - and where does that end?
"Putting a price on fan engagement is a mere front for a crypto investment scheme and flies in the face of community spirit and the age-old role of fans shaping their club, which is why we - along with other supporter groups - are calling for the partnership to be terminated immediately."
Can a club who charges fans to engage in this way truly call itself a community club?
"True football fans are constantly fighting to preserve their club's important role of being at the heart of the local community; fighting against the global ambitions of investors and sponsors to further monetise and sell the game.
"Alarmingly, we have recently seen terms such as 'historic supporters,' and 'legacy fans' used by opportunistic outside parties that are trying to sideline genuine, loyal and local fans by rebranding them as an inconvenience and a barrier to their grand plan of further global expansion, marketing and profit.
"Last summer, the Super League tried to paint genuine fans as 'legacy supporters,' who were simply getting in the way of the game's global ascension. And just recently, the Socios CEO, Alexandre Dreyfus seemingly hit-out at 'historical, local fans,' who needed to 'live with' the shift towards clubs catering for distant, online followers.
"The Socios proposal is anti-community and against genuine football supporters.
"It's vital that fan groups up and down the country continue to oppose it."
In response to this article, a Socios Spokesperson said:
"Fan Token holders are able to influence some club decisions in ways that fans have never been able before, like naming a new training pitch, choosing the cover of the matchday programme or what songs to play at the ground. They also have the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like VIP matchday tickets.
"We know what we’re doing is new and different, but at the heart of everything we’re doing is the fan, bringing fans fun, unique and exciting opportunities that have never existed before."