Crypto-sports organization, WAGMI United, acquires English League Two club Crawley Town
A group of US cryptocurrency investors, WAGMI (we are all gonna make it) United, led by co-founders Preston Johnson (former ESPN gambling analyst) and Eben Smith (former derivatives trader) have completed the takeover of English League Two side, Crawley Town, currently 12th in the league.
Johnson and Smith will become co-directors however the WAGMI group also includes president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, Daryl Morey, businessman Gary Vaynerchuk and TikTok personality Bryce Hall.
The ultimate underdog
WAGMI United had previously been linked to a deal to purchase Bradford City in 2021 but the DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) has made its move to introduce “Web3’s most innovative ideas and passionate communities to the world of sports.” And although Crawley Town’s ownership structure will not (yet) be a DAO, Johnson and Smith are committed to a level of community-based transparency and accountability.
One of the advantages of taking over, with all due respect, a League Two team is the opportunity to realize substantial improvements based upon investment in equipment, facilities, financing and analytics that would have a lesser impact were Crawley an established Premier League club. So the theory goes that with more financial resources than their other League Two competitors, they will be able to bring in the best possible players and coaches that should translate to what matters most: wins.
Crawley Town represents a perfect canvas upon which co-founder Eben Smith states they have placed a “high-variance bet.” Without sugar-coating the current situation, Crawley Town are one of the smallest clubs with the smallest budget in any English soccer league. Commissioning data from StatsBomb, WAGMI have determined that if they increase their wage bill to £3.3 million from £1.3 million currently, they will have a significant opportunity for promotion. In addition, with just 727 season-ticket holders at the 6,000-capacity Broadfield Stadium there is plenty of room for infrastructure growth for a club close to Gatwick airport and halfway between London and Brighton.
“Crawley Town Football Club is a club with more than 125 years of rich history that we revere and respect. However, a conventional approach to ownership hasn’t worked, and the club is losing hundreds of thousands of pounds while its fans suffer through year after year of uninspiring results on the pitch,” said Preston Johnson. “We think the club can do better and our fans deserve better. Sports are supposed to be fun and bring communities together. At Crawley Town, we’re going to shake up the status quo, try out some new ideas, and build a worldwide community of fans new and old that can be excited to cheer on the Red Devils together - stretching from West Sussex to anywhere in the world with an internet connection.”
Asymmetric growth opportunity
Crawley’s first-team manager John Yems welcomed the move, while paying tribute to previous board members: Ziya Eren, Erdem Konyar, Emre Eren and Nuhkan Ruzgar who have all stepped down from the club.
“This is an exciting time for the club,” Yems said. “Let’s hope that we can continue the good progress we have made and take the club forward. I would also like to place on record a thank you to the previous owners. They gave me the opportunity to manage the football club, and I wish them all the best for the future.”
The idea to transform Crawley into a club of global interest is ambitious, utilizing an ownership model unseen that has no precedent in sports. With the usual caveats associated with the volatility of cryptocurrencies and more financial regulation forthcoming, this is the next step in the intersection of sports and crypto that has been steadily building over the last couple of years.
Fans of Crawley Town are either going to be excited or terrified with being the playground for an experiment in building a digital community from the sand-pit up. The co-founders intend to introduce the utility of NFTs - a term that can promote anxiety among financial investors - as a means to grow this digital community whereby fans of crypto and NFT’s can have a level of ownership and involvement. As the first adventure into crypto-sports ownership, WAGMI United are looking to push a “this is our team!” narrative.
The hope is that this will create a flywheel to make the overall soccer experience better; a growth opportunity that when combined with investment at a more granular level on analytics, infrastructure, hospitality and equipment will lead to the smallest team on the smallest budget in the English Football League (EFL) to ideally, move fast and secure promotion as the first step along their journey to the top.