SportemonGo, a platform focusing on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or digital assets, signed a three-year deal with Hibs in September 2021 – the first of its kind in Scottish football – with the partnership promising the investment of a significant six-figure sum each season along with ‘new products and fan engagement services’ including a Hibs Fan Token.
Described by Hibs as a ‘valued VIP fandom membership in the form of cryptocurrency’ the club likened the fan token to a digital pass that would provide holders with enhanced access to the club and – in theory – serve as a form of 21st-century memorabilia.
But the fan token was never properly launched, and the firm’s website was taken offline and its social media accounts vanished on Monday, although the website later reappeared with a notice of termination posted.
The platform was funded entirely through SportemonGo’s own digital currency but the platform encountered financial struggles some months ago, with Hibs starting to reduce their assets at the first sign of trouble, although the SportemonGo logo remained on the lower rear of the club’s jerseys.
The club has confirmed it was already planning a ‘mutual termination’ of the partnership, stressing that no fans have been left out of pocket and a new partnership will be confirmed in the near future.
Easter Road Commercial Director Greg McEwan told the Evening News: “Prior to signing a significant partnership deal with SportemonGo, we went through a thorough process researching the company to ensure we’d done our due diligence.
“Like any partnership, we were then in constant communication with them and when we became aware of their financial difficulties, a few months ago, we stepped back from the partnership and began to reduce their assets.
“We would like to reiterate that no supporters lost out financially through the launch of the Hibs Fan Token earlier in the year. As it never properly launched, all supporters that purchased a fan token were refunded.
“Knowing SportemonGo’s difficulties, we had been planning for a mutual termination of the partnership and have a new partner in place for the upcoming season, which will be announced soon.”
Fans expressed concern over the nature of the tie-up following the announcement, with some likening it to little more than a pyramid scheme. The appearance of several so-called ‘bot’ accounts on social media posts about the partnership also left some supporters suspicious about the legitimacy of the arrangement.
Hibs were forced to issue a statement just weeks after announcing the deal, reassuring fans that the partnership was simply ‘an extra way to engage with supporters’, having earlier said that the link was not aimed at monetising supporter engagement.
SportemonGo also inked a tie-up with Rangers and English Premier League footballers Luke Shaw and Scotland captain Andy Robertson.
NFTs are unlikely to disappear from football any time soon. Last month Scottish Premiership clubs – minus the Ibrox side – joined the Sorare community, a fantasy football game that combines card collecting and tournament contests conducted through NFTs and the blockchain (a record of transactions made through cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin).