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Premier League giants Manchester City edge into cryptocurrency market

By Dan Cole on 22nd March 2021

Not content with strolling towards their fifth league title of the Premier League era, European football heavyweights Manchester City have taken their first tentative steps into the world of cryptocurrency.

The top-flight leaders, who hold a gap of fourteen points to fierce rivals Manchester United in second place, announced the launch of their own cryptocurrency token on Friday morning.

With interest in cryptocurrency at an all-time high, and the value of leading currencies like Bitcoin continuing to rise as platforms like bitcoin-equaliser.com make trading more accessible, the Etihad Stadium club has partnered with Socios.com to launch the Manchester City $CITY Fan Token.

The Fan Tokens, known in the blockchain industry as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), will be available to all registered ‘Cityzens’, the club’s supporters’ membership club, and all registered users are eligible to receive one for free.

Manchester City currently top the Premier League. Image credit: canno73/Bigstock.com

City are dangling the exclusive carrot of VIP rewards, games, club promotions, augmented reality experiences, and even selected voting rights to Fan Token holders in the near future.

Stephan Cieplik, of City Football Group, said: “We are excited to launch the new Manchester City Fan Token, which will provide another opportunity for our fans all over the world to get even closer to the club they love. Fans will have access to fantastic competitions and VIP experiences and be able to vote on club initiatives.

“Every existing registered Cityzen will also be eligible for a free token so they can access the full range of benefits and rewards.

“We recognise the significant interest in blockchain and the opportunity it provides us to engage further our global fanbase and we are confident that the Manchester City Fan Token will prove a popular addition to our digital line-up.”

Traders and experts alike had been talking up the prospects of Bitcoin long before the COVID-19 crisis paralysed economies the world over
Traders and experts alike had been talking up the prospects of Bitcoin long before the Covid-19 crisis paralysed economies the world over

The $City Fan Tokens will be housed on the Chiliz blockchain via Socios.com, a fan engagement and rewards mobile app, marking another step-change in the global perception of blockchain technology, as it begins to infiltrate the fan experience sector.

Fan Tokens may be considered a frivolous market for a club with the global reach of Manchester City, but the experimental NFT market for sports coins is expanding rapidly, with the Fan Token market cap now worth more than £300m, and the $CHZ coin, the Chiliz blockchain’s native currency, now comfortably among the top 50 cryptocurrencies in the world – with a market cap of over $3.3bn.

For a club with the corporate governance of Manchester City, whose City Football Group holding company also owns Major League Soccer side New York City, Australian club Melbourne City, and a host of other clubs throughout the world, the Fan Token project could prove to be lucrative.

Socios and Chiliz CEO Alexandre Dreyfus said: “The club have proven they are ahead of the pack in embracing innovation and will enhance that status further through the $CITY Fan Token.

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“Socios.com and $CITY Fan Tokens will be hugely complementary to City’s global approach, providing fans around the world with unprecedented engagement opportunities, as well as unique digital, and – once restrictions are lifted – real-life rewards and experiences.”

City are breaking new ground as the first club to launch a Fan Token in England. However, they are not the first major player in Europe to test the waters. Historic clubs like FC Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint Germain and Juventus have all launched their own NFTs in recent times.

Existing examples of the tokens in action include Juventus’ decision to allow token holders to vote for goal music played at the Turin club’s home games.

Using the Chiliz blockchain, the club issued the world’s first Fan Token Offering (FTO) in 2019, encouraging supporters to purchase the $JUV token to vote on future goalstings at the Allianz Stadium.

In a narrow vote between a shortlist of four tracks, $JUV holders voted for Blur’s Song 2 to replace the incumbent Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis as their ‘new’ celebration track. The 1997 Britpop anthem secured 33% of the vote, beating out Blink 182’s All the Small Things, and House of Pain’s Jump Around.