The past few days have seen an online explosion in discussion around West Ham’s decision to implement the Socios model of supporter engagement. Such has been the negativity towards the concept Fan groups, bloggers, vloggers and the rest have all signed up to say #StuffSocios. Here is our easy to follow guide.
Q1. What is/who are Socios?
A. The term “Socios” originally applied to Spanish clubs owned by the fans. The Socios we are talking about are a company that sell fan engagement using a cryptocurrency.
A. The most popular example of the genre is Bitcoin. It’s a form of electronic cash – a digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user without the need for intermediaries. Socios use a token called Chiliz ($CHZ) which are limited in number and whose value will increase and decrease according to demand.
3. Is this a new thing?
A. Pretty much. West Ham are the third club worldwide to adopt Socios after Juventus and Paris St Germain.
4. But they’re real powerhouses – shouldn’t we be pleased we’re joining two of football’s big boys?
A. It would be lovely to think West Ham’s “next level” ambitions extend beyond a desire to charge fans to have a voice. But this attempt to distinguish fans from superfans by an acceptance of the scheme is an insult to all supporters.
5. What do you get for your money?
A. This is perhaps the nub of the issue – and the club are being rather coy on the subject. The stated aim is access to votes on issues. The fear is they will start off with small items and expand as the concept grows leaving those fans without the resources to pay left without a voice.
Doubly egregious is the fact West Ham are one of only two of the 92 professional clubs in the country to refuse independent supporter engagement in line with UEFA and Premier League regulations.
Either the questions will be trivial and the money expended worthless. Or the Socios members will be enjoying an access to the club denied others.
6. Clubs monetise fan engagement all the time via season ticket increases and overpriced club merchandise. What’s the difference?
A. In a word, massive. Just like the popcorn now on sale in the ground we can choose not to buy any of those things and it shouldn’t affect our capability to interact with our club. Socios mean we have to mimic the morality of the invidious “cash for questions” political scandal.
7. How old do you have to be to buy tokens?
A. We have no idea what protections are in place. Likewise, it would appear these transactions aren’t overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (the regulator for financial services and markets in the UK). This could leave those purchasing tokens financially exposed.
8. What commission do the club receive on each transaction?
A. BOOM! There’s the $64,000 question. Did I say sixty-four thousand dollars? Who knows!
9. Do you get more of a voice the more tokens you buy?
A. It would appear so. Yet even though Socios apply a limit on purchases there appears to be little to stop the club from employing agents to buy 50 per cent plus one of the tokens thereby exerting full control on any decisions made. Such an action would also have the added benefit of increasing the price. We hope we are not giving anybody any ideas here. Eh Karren?
10. How do I get rid of any tokens I buy?
A. You sell them. But there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup your outlay. Equally, should the value rise this could be fertile ground for speculators with no interest in West Ham.
11. So there’s no guarantee buyers will be West Ham fans?
12. So that lot down the Lane could club together and wreck agendas?
A. We’re sure they have better things to do – but theoretically, yes – there are no safeguards against bad actors disrupting the system.
13. Who do I complain to if I’m not satisfied with the service I get?
A. There’s no mention of any complaints procedure so far, we feel sure either the club or Socios will come up with something. Won’t they?
14. Nobody forces you to buy Tokens?
A. Just in the same way as you’re not forced to buy into private healthcare. But there are obvious benefits in so doing. We at WHUISA are not at all happy with the idea of a two-tier fanbase.
15. What are the implications of Socios on the OSB?
A. Pretty dire we’d imagine, hence Chairman David Baker’s stated opposition to the scheme.