Football Media Watch: WAGMI oh my… football feels the wind of change

THERE was something predictable about the speed of the collapse of the bid to buy Bradford City by a group of investors going by the name of WAGMI United. This bid, some might say audacious attempt, was from a group that aimed to use the latest financial miracle cure, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), in order to transform a club currently languishing in League Two. 

The cynics had a field day and iNews captured the mood perfectly: “The make up of this group is vaguely generic, if emphatically modern. There’s a sports gambling analyst, the president of a US sports team, the chairman of a communications agency and a TikTok sensation.” No surprise the report was headed: “The thought of Bradford City being bought by this clueless crypto crew fills me with horror.”

Certainly, some of the comments made and soundbites suggest there is little knowledge or sensitivity being displayed. For a start, they initially referred to the club as “Bradford” which of course is not Bradford City but non-league Park Avenue. Secondly, they talked of restoring the club to its “rightful glory”. Did they look into City’s history? One FA Cup win in 1911 and a total of 12 seasons in English football’s top flight. With the greatest respect to a fine and much-loved club, rightful glory is probably League One. Furthermore, they talked of not wanting to “start fires”, which given the events of 1985 when fans died in the horrific blaze at the stadium, is not really the most appropriate way to describe a shake-up at the club. It might not seem important to some, but football is a game of emotions.

Most people don’t know what NFTs really are and how they work. Basically, they are a non- interchangeable unit of data stored on blockchain (distributed ledger technology). As The Athletic pointed out, there is some nervousness about such instruments given their price volatility – PSG and Manchester City’s NFTs lost 75% of their value in a very short space of time. NFTs are also unregulated, so the market is a little like the wild west at the moment. No wonder some critics call them “magic beans” and dismiss them as a fad.

WAGMI conceded that they know little about the intricacies of English football, which should have worried Bradford City’s fans.  The Guardian was told early on that a transaction was a long way from completion and there were serious doubts whether it would go through. Chairman Stefan Rupp hinted it was no deal, insisting his objective was to protect the club and safeguard its long-term future. While many fans were not impressed by the WAGMI bid, there was a lot of enthusiasm from those who wanted to see the end of the Rupp era at Bradford City.

The local media were more on the side of the doubters. The Telegraph & Argus asked how long would it take for WAGMI to get bored. “What happens a couple of years down the line when the novelty has long lost its shine and they are seeking the next crypto high in a totally different business? What then for Bradford City and the people that would be left behind?”.

One fan, who claimed to have a big interest in crypto, said on twitter: “Sport teams and crypto are diametrically opposed. If you want to build, go start your own club.”

The latest twist is that following WAGMI’s announcement that claimed an agreement in principle had been struck, Stefan Rupp is considering legal action. He told the Telegraph & Argus: “Sadly, the actions of WAGMI United LLC have detrimentally brought both my integrity and the club’s reputation into question.”

The case may go on, but the transaction looks dead – if indeed it was ever really alive. This won’t be the last time that such an organisation attempts to buy a club, but owners, fans and governing bodies will need to be wary.

Sources: The Athletic, Telegraph & Argus, Daily Mirror, Guardian, iNews, Coinmarketcap.

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