Arsenal Football Club has been rebuked by the Advertising Standards Authority for promoting a crypto investment without suitable warnings about how risky it was.
The club has come under fire for two adverts promoting “fan tokens” which the ASA said had taken advantage of fans’ inexperience and failed to make clear that the tokens had to be bought with a cryptocurrency.
It is the second time that Arsenal has been censured, after the ASA upheld similar complaints against the club last year. Arsenal’s fan token, which is a type of non-fungible token – or NFT, launched last November and had traded for more than £5, but its value has since slumped to £1.57.
Susannah Streeter, of the stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown, said the advertising watchdog had “shown the red card” to Arsenal.
“NFTs, which have been described as modern day trading cards, are seen as valuable streams of fresh revenue for football clubs, and for soccer stars who have been promoting other schemes,” she said. “But with the value of crypto coins and tokens crashing in spectacular fashion in the last few months, it has left many hopeful fans in the stands clutching NFTs with hefty losses.”
The ASA upheld complaints against two of Arsenal’s adverts, one of which was a Facebook post featuring footballers Ben White, Calum Chambers and Kieran Tierney.
The watchdog said this advert did not include any risk warning to make consumers aware that the fan tokens were crypto assets, which are unregulated in Britain, and the value could go down as well as up.
The second was a webpage “$AFC Fan Token: Everything you need to know”, which explained that the NFTs had to be bought with the cryptocurrency Chiliz. The virtual currency has lost more than half of its value in the past year.
The ASA said the risk warning in this advert was not prominent enough and again failed to state that the tokens were not regulated in the UK.
Arsenal was told not to “trivialise investment in crypto assets by omitting appropriate and prominent risk warnings” and not to “irresponsibly take advantage of consumers’ lack of experience or credulity”.
Last month, the Football Association said that it was drawing up plans to launch a collection for the England teams, despite the slump in the crypto market this year. A spokesman for the FA said that any revenue generated would be “for the benefit of the game”.
Arsenal has been contacted for comment.