Whether you like it or not, cryptocurrency does not appear to be going away anytime soon. Although many see it purely as an investment opportunity, it is not just bound to financial circles as cryptocurrency has successful permeated into mainstream society.
We have already seen evidence of this in the world of football. During 2021, David Barral became the first professional player ever to be signed by using Bitcoin when moving to Segunda B outfit DUX Internacional de Madrid. This came just three years after Italian Serie C side Rimini 1912 FC sold a 25% stake in the club in exchange for an undisclosed number amount of Quanotcoin.
More recently, in December 2021, news broke that Bitcoin businessman Peter McCormack had taken over control of Bedford F.C, a club in the 10th tier of English football. While a takeover of a club this size would not normally generate much, if any, publicity, the crypto element of this particular deal made it one the press could not ignore.
Why Bedford FC?
In truth, there were probably several clubs McCormack could have bought so low down the English footballing pyramid. Although he does not boast incredible wealth (by the standards of some football club owners) he has been successfully trading cryptocurrencies for many years. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, his recognition in the industry has enabled him to attract investors to join along for the ride.
This recognition partly comes down to hosting the ‘What Bitcoin Did’ podcast as it attracts over 1m listeners every month. Commanding a lot of respect among fellow Bitcoin enthusiasts, shortly after the deal was announced, McCormack confirmed he had 133 enquiries about investing in the club. On top of this he had secured £250,000 in sponsorship money which is a staggering amount for a 10th tier club.
Back to why exactly Bedford FC was the purchased club though and part of the reason is that McCormack claimed it has been a ‘childhood dream’ to own a local Bedford club. Notice he did not specifically state Bedford FC though because he made a ‘substantial’ cash offer for Bedford Town initially. When the purchase of the eighth-tier side failed to materialise, McCormack opted for plan B which was Bedford FC.
So, although McCormack is not, or rather previously was not a fan of Bedford FC, it is here where he was raised so the area holds a special connection. If he can make a real success of things, the impact it would have on the local area would no doubt make it that little bit sweeter.
All Change At The Club
When a club is purchased by a Bitcoin specialist, you could not possibly think that it would be a case of business as usual. McCormack came in with no shortage of drastic changes, many of which were either implemented or at least, announced, almost immediately after taking control. A complete rebranding, for want of a better word, of the club was paramount to McCormack’s new vision. This meant scrapping the name Bedford FC at the end of the season and replacing it with Real Bedford FC. Real Madrid they ain’t but it no doubt garnered a little publicity and makes them stand out in English football, though it is quite the name to live up to.
Along with the name change, a rather menacing new kit and logo was unveiled. The former black and white crest of a man holding an Olympic style torch was replaced with skull and bones. Underneath the bones the text reads “est. block 712003” while the new motto reads ‘Vires in Numeris’. This Latin phrase, meaning ‘strength in numbers’ is often used as the Bitcoin motto.
As many Bitcoin enthusiasts were instantly wanting to adopt Bedford FC as their football team, or one of them, there was also a sudden demand for merchandise. After all, this was a club that in the space of a few days had 30+ supporters clubs around the globe, when most games are attended by crowds more like 30+! Although no new-rebranded merch was immediately available, the plan is for this to be a non-significant revenue stream for the 10th tier outfit. Among other modernisations, McCormack also hoped to transform Real Bedford FC into a ‘Bitcoin club’ and by this he meant operating on the Bitcoin standard.
Although many changes were forced to wait to the start of the new season, there were some more immediate modifications, such as the resignation of manager Jason Goldman and assistant Martin Well. Although Goldman called the project exciting, he added upon his departure that he felt the managerial positions had “been made untenable by those now running the football club”. Given that the pair had full belief of mounting a play-off challenge, with the club lying in 7th place at the time, it seems that they were rather pushed out. At the very least, we suspect the new investor wanted far more control on the playing side than is normal.
You cannot accuse McCormack for lacking optimism and ambition regarding how far he can take Bedford FC, or rather Real Bedford FC. When declaring he wanted to get the club into the Premier League, some lauded his lofty aims, while many others mocked what seems like a completely impossible target. For a club that usually only attracts 50 fans to its matches, it does seem like a ludicrously large step, even over a great number of years.
Very occasionally you might find a team from the fourth tier make their way to the English top flight (Bournemouth being one example) but this is a task so much more challenging. It would be a huge success just to turn Bedford FC into a professional club, something that would most likely require promotion to the National League (fifth tier).
Bedford FC will certainly have financial dominance over their rivals but this does not always equate to success on the pitch as other clubs have found out. It is definitely a project worth keeping your eye on, although it would not be a surprise to see people lose interest should Real Bedford fail to fly up the divisions.
A Sign Of Things To Come?
There is little indication that there will be many more clubs sold to crypto investors any time soon. Although there is a lot of money in the crypto market, football teams are largely seen to be high risk investments as well as demanding lots of time and resources. This is not to say, however, that the relationship between cryptocurrencies, in particular Bitcoin, and football will not grow closer in the years to come.
It is noticeable how many football clubs have embraced cryptocurrency in recent years. It was only in 2019 that Watford’s official kit had the Bitcoin logo as a sleeve sponsor. The deal, which was arranged by the primary sponsor, Sportsbet.io, was renewed in 2021 and paid for using Bitcoin. Clubs have also begun to embrace ‘fan tokens’ and this has quickly proven to be extremely lucrative. Among the top 13 clubs involved, the value of their tokens as of Dec 2021 exceeded $1.9bn.
Just weeks prior to this report, 17 of the 20 Premier League clubs had at least one commercial cryptocurrency deal in place. Clearly, where there is money to be made, you can bet that most football clubs will be taking at least an interest in the opportunity, despite the many concerns surrounding cryptocurrencies.