Web3 in Ligue 2? Crawley Town And The “Crypto Bros” | Crawley Town

JThe People’s Pension Stadium turf was revived at the end of the season, but had a hard time adjusting. Then came the anniversary weekend, and as one of the club’s officials put it, “boom, it just showed up”. The green shoots timed their arrival well. The new U.S. owners of Crawley Town followed suit this week, making their first public appearance and rolling out their cause for a different way of running a football club.

Preston Johnson and Eben Smith are the founders of Wagmi United, the “crypto bridge consortium” (not their designation), which earned its money in cryptocurrency and used it to buy Crawley in April. They got a lot of coverage – equal parts confusion and dismay overall – then they got a little more when the scandal about manager John Yems’ alleged racist behavior became public knowledge.

The Yems left the club shortly after, and Johnson and Smith were in Sussex on Wednesday to reveal their own signature, former Arsenal U23 manager Kevin Betsy. But the question of how the owners plan to use the power of “Web3” to make Crawley a world footballer was not far behind.


“A lot of the world, whether it’s football, crypto sports or something that lives a more digital life,” Johnson says. “We believe there is an opportunity for the remote to join a club as a result. We want to give unprecedented access to local and external fans, and technology gives us that opportunity to do so in a way that which has never been done before.This is macro vision.

Johnson is a tall man in his thirties with a bushy blond beard and to this day a pair of designer slip-on shoes with a large image of a water tower on. He’s a professional gamer who’s become a crypto investor, and he’s sure of his idea for Crawley.

The club will soon offer a range of digital tokens for sale, which will allow buyers to view and participate in decision making. This, Johnson insists, will go far beyond offers from companies like Socios, which run programs for a number of top European teams, where tokens allow users to vote in club polls.

Crawley Town Football Club’s new manager Kevin Betsy at Broadfield Stadium. Photo: James Boardman / Alamy Live News

“Socios … they’re on the right track, but I don’t know if the fans care if it’s Coca-Cola or Pepsi that’s for sale in the stands,” Johnson said. “Certainly not. But how much of our salary budget in the transfer window goes to attack, midfield or defense, it could be really exciting, right? Being able to actually participate in decision-making is definitely on the table, and those are the things we must weigh: what fans care about, where the actual ability to have governance and say it’s worth it.This gives NFT real tangible value.

Concerns about the dramatic spread of cryptocurrency in football cover a variety of angles: from their basic utility to the prospect of secondary market manipulation, where fan investors end up buying at high prices to watch their assets fall in value. Crawley’s tokens, Johnson says, will be resold, and the fact that NFTs are currently taking a beating on the coin does not bother him that much.

“We bought the club completely in fiat [currency], in pounds we have reserves for several seasons and within the ownership circle to maintain the club, even though we have not had any income for years, ”he says. “Whether it’s a bear market for NFTs or not, we’re still very confident we can establish something that will generate revenue for the club and be positive.”

Johnson envisions a connected, digital audience that pays to stream Crawley matches from around the world because they feel they have a share in what’s going on. They will also be able to be sure, he says, that the team will play “a beautiful style that is actually more pleasing to the eye”. This is one of the criteria that the club sets for any leadership candidate, another is the desire to integrate data analytics into the heart of its job. By hiring Betsy, they think they have found someone who matches their plans.

The former English youth coach impressed Johnson and Smith with an hour-long presentation of his approach to analysis. The 44-year-old promises “attacking, adaptable and aggressive football with and without ball”. He is also a young black manager, again a striking rarity in English football and an appointment that stands in stark contrast to what came before.

With quiet eloquence, Betsy made a positive first impression at her first press conference as Crawley’s manager, and so did her bosses. But as Betsy said, “talking is cheap,” and the result of Crawley’s daring plans will remain the subject of great curiosity for some time to come.

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