OPINION: Hib$ Fan Tokens Make Me ‘Uncomfortable’
Callum Watt’s take on Hibernian’s controversial venture into cryptocurrency.
Hibernian FC yesterday announced the pre-sale of the Hib$ Fan Token. A fan token is “a valued VIP fandom membership in the form of a cryptocurrency” and will, apparently, allow supporters access to “special experiences”. The move comes little over a month after announcing a partnership with Sportemon Go, a company whose aim is to “revolutionise the NFT collectible industry”. Hibs liken the fan token to collecting memorabilia such as ticket stubs and matchday programmes in bygone days, but in a digital-only format. They also state that Hib$ Fan Token holders will gain access to club polls, quizzes, competitions and games.
This is just the latest in a number of new money-making schemes the club has announced, however, instead of merely agreeing to plaster a company’s logo on an advertising board, this one feels a bit dodgy. The announcements (of both the initial partnership and new fan token) were met with major scepticism from supporters, thanks in no small part to Hibs themselves. Their poorly-worded, jargon-filled statements did little in the way of actually explaining what the deals meant for fans, but rather, further alienated anyone who doesn’t happen to have heard of a non-fungible token. Hibernian’s tweet announcing the tokens was instantly met with hundreds of bot-like replies from accounts with long usernames and very few followers stating how great this was – again, something to be wary of.
Personally, I am disappointed to see Hibs getting involved with such a thing. Having read the statements multiple times and watched lengthy explanatory videos, I’m still unsure as to what (if any) benefit this kind of partnership will bring the average fan. As far as I can tell, NFTs are for those with too much money who want to place value on insignificant digital ‘things’, such as the Nyan Cat GIF which someone bought for $560,000. The working-class Hibs fan, in my view, should steer well clear to avoid losing out on any of their hard-earned money.
Should Hibs’ partnership with Sportemon Go and involvement in crypto turn sour, as many predict, it won’t be the first time a relatively high-profile club has been duped into partnering with some questionable companies. In 2019, a Sunday Times investigation found that Tottenham Hotspur’s African betting partner 1xBet were involved in gambling on children’s sports, advertising on illegal websites, and running illegal cockfights. The company had their UK license removed and Spurs immediately cut all ties with them.
In the same month Hibs announced the end of their traditional matchday programme, they dive into the murky waters of cryptocurrency. No longer can kids attending their first match purchase a paper programme to remember it by, they now must invest in crypto and buy Hib$ Fan Tokens. A sign of the times? Perhaps, but it doesn’t sit right with me. The club are essentially advertising this as ‘The more tokens you have, the bigger the fan you are’, and I fear a number of naïve supporters will be conned by what many are already describing as Hibs’ own pyramid scheme. I am obviously all for Hibs trying to make money through partnerships and sponsorship, but this one makes me uncomfortable, and I hope it doesn’t become the norm in Scottish football.