The London Football Exchange: It’s disruption, not ‘democracy’

The grandly titled ‘London Football Exchange’ (LFE) has launched, positioning itself even more grandly as ‘Democratising Football through the Blockchain.’

For those who don’t know (and I have a very basic understanding myself), the Blockchain ‘allows market participants to keep track of digital currency transactions without central recordkeeping.’ (If you want to read more, you can on the magnificent Investopedia website: It’s part of a disruptive technology, the ‘back end’ if you like, of Digital Currency (this is also known as ‘Crypto’ or ‘Virtual’ Currency – like Bitcoin, for which the Blockchain was essentially created. More here:

The essence of the LFE appears to be to create a sort digital virtual world for football products and services, where digital currency is used to buy and invest in things. From my reading, this will disrupt existing processes & suppliers that football clubs use, providing the ability for supporters of clubs to seek better value in their ticketing and merchandising purchases, and ‘experiences’ relating to their clubs – player interaction, and the more ‘customer-focused’ areas of Fan Engagement.

I won’t pretend to be expert enough to critically analyse some of the more technical aspects as deeply as they might deserve – this article in Forbes does it well enough: The idea of disruption is nothing new; taxis and takeaways are two of the most famous examples. The old media landscape has been virtually laid waste to because of technology.

‘Employing Jock Stein’s famous maxim, ‘Football without fans is nothing’ to promote a loyalty points scheme is pretty cynical’

But as someone who helped bring to the public consciousness terms in football like ‘engagement’, and the importance of meaningful relationships between fans and their clubs, I’m interested in the sort of language used by the LFE to describe what it’s proposing. What I recognise, as a result of also studying PR, is the use of words and phrases that intentionally convey a certain idea as a gateway to something else almost entirely. Football is a pretty prime target for this sort of thing, precisely because of its meaning to us, and the language we use to talk about the game.

For example, LFE uses the term like ‘Democratising’, when what they actually seem to mean is disrupting the market. Or they talk about ‘A global movement to create the ultimate sport community’, when a movement isn’t set up from the top and financed by, I presume, some kind of equity or finance raising mechanism, but comes from people and has nothing directly to do with money. Or employing Jock Stein’s famous maxim, ‘Football without fans is nothing’ to promote a loyalty points scheme (which is pretty cynical). Or saying that it can become a vehicle for greater involvement in the ownership of shares in football clubs by fans, which anyway looks a bit like an after-thought, and rather like a repackaged attempt at PLCs in football – which failed fairly miserably for all sorts of reasons I won’t go into now.

It excites me to see new ideas and concepts challenging old thinking. What makes me groan is when I see needless puff like this, which is unnecessary, and somewhat misrepresents what the actual idea is about. If anything, I’d say it actually distracts from the idea itself.

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