WAGMI (we’re all gonna make it) United is a unique NFT project. It is probably the only one of its kind. Holders of WAGMI United NFTs cannot flex a flashy PFP, but they can participate in the governance of a real football (soccer) club.
WAGMI United bought Crawley Town FC, an English Football League 2 club (fourth-highest division overall in the English football league system). Crawley Town is based, not surprisingly, in the town of Crawley, West Sussex, England. The club was founded in 1896.
WAGMI United’s website states that it has three goals:
- To reinvent broken legacy sports management models.
- To give fans a meaningful voice.
- To take Crawley Town FC to the Premier League (top division in the English football league system, meaning three promotions).
The WAGMI United project was founded by Eben Smith and Preston Johnson. Their first attempt to acquire an English football club failed in December 2021, when they tried to buy fellow fourth-tier side Bradford City. On their second attempt in April this year, WAGMI United used traditional finance to complete its purchase of Crawley.
WAGMI United claims to be “the internet’s football team.” The project’s mission is to bring web3 to sports. Co-founder Preston Johnson is a web3 veteran. Back in 2020, Johnson helped launch a company called Pixel Vault. Pixel Vault is, simply put, a massive NFT collection of superheroes, whose goal is to grow into a decentralized Marvel empire. Pixel Vault has generated about $200 million in sales volume. It received a $100 million investment from venture funds in February this year.
This month, WAGMI United launched sales of their NFT. For the price of 0.35 ETH, buyers receive what Johnson calls “a virtual season ticket.” According to the team, the NFT mint price is based on the fixed costs of running a football club. It is a ERC-1155 token and includes a range of benefits. Some are traditional offerings such as limited-edition jerseys and access to exclusive content, including interviews with players behind the scenes. Others are more novel, such as the promise of “special input and voting on the future.” For example, last Friday NFT holders were able to vote on whether the team should strengthen in attack, midfield or defence. Crawley’s season ticket-holders are invited to take part too. The full list of utilities is announced in the discord as below.
Partly due to the overall market conditions, the NFT sale is not going well. Out of the 10,000 available pieces, 1,937 pieces remain to be minted. While the mint price is 0.35 ETH a piece, price on OpenSea has already dropped to 0.15 ETH, less than 50% of the original price. Nevertheless, the project has already raised about 2,822 ETH (~$4 million USD), which is a very significant sum for a League Two side like Crawley.
It is very common for football clubs to sell NFTs nowadays. For example, FC Barcelona plans to launch “In a way, immortal,” the first NFT artwork by the club. It is a digital work of art recreating Johan Cruyff’s legendary flying kick and goal in 1973. It will be auctioned at Sotheby’s New York later this week.
But football fans are not buying such NFTs. Liverpool, another legendary football club, partnered with Sotheby’s to sell up to 171,072 NFTs for $75 each — $12.8 million in total — in April this year. The NFTs were digital artworks of famous Liverpool players such as Mohamed Salah. Liverpool closed the controversial NFT sale after only 9,721 pieces were sold, i.e., 5.7% of the total supply.
Unlike the failed efforts of the bigger clubs, WAGMI United wants to sell a football club to fans of NFTs, rather than sell NFTs to football fans.
WAGMI United hopes to foster a remote community of new supporters around the club via NFTs. The project’s ambition can be heard in the founder’s own voice in an interview with the Independent last month.
“A lot of NFT projects are just speculation with no real tangible spine, no real true story,” Johnson says.
“Having a football club to root for every week? That’s a spine that people attach themselves to.
“A lot of these NFT projects, you’re just trying to flip an NFT to make money. There are so many projects driven by pure speculation. Not with Crawley Town.
“Even if our NFT prices go to zero, I will know as a buyer the money I spent is helping to sustain a club that I’m rooting for.
“It’s going towards the wage bill, towards better infrastructure, to decrease season-ticket pricing for the local community.”
In the months since the takeover, WAGMI United has been busy.
They first signed a new manager, Kevin Betsy, and several new players, including League Two’s top goalscorer last season, Dom Telford. Then they struck a kit and apparel deal with Adidas. They have also signed a documentary deal with a streaming platform to record their first year in charge.
Last season, Crawley’s average attendance per game was about 2,300. They sold 900 kits. Now WAGMI United has 5,400 token holders, 26,623 discord members and 42,300 twitter followers. WAGMI United has indeed attracted quite a following (even though a certain percentage are pure speculators with no long term interest). With the amount of money raised, Crawley is well-positioned, at least financially, to win a promotion to League 1 this season. If that happens, we might actually witness a football-NFT Cinderella story, which may draw a wider audience to contribute to the club’s further success.
One of the downsides of owning the WAGMI United NFT is that it does not represent ownership in the Crawley football club. Unlike other fundraising efforts, holders will not receive stock certificates (for example, Spanish football club SD Eibar raised 1.9 million euros in the form of small donations from 50 countries worldwide in 2014 and granted stock certificates to donors). It is also unclear exactly how governance works. While the community gets to vote on some issues, many things are done behind the scenes.
If not in a bear market, the unique offerings of WAGMI United will certainly attract more attention. It has its problems but it is an interesting experiment with a lot of potential. In the future, crowdfunding projects in other fields that utilize NFTs will surely learn a lot from the success or failure of WAGMI United. And it is certainly better than the typical pump-and-dump PFP projects that are rampant in the space at the moment.