Online sleuths have this week turned their attentions to an unusual new case: the mystery of the Manchester City “decentralised finance trading analysis” partnership. Amateur detectives have been scouring the internet to find the digital footprint of a company called 3Key, who last week were announced by City as a new official regional partner.

While the club did not specify in their public announcement which region they were talking about, the location of their new partner was not the only thing unknown about the deal. Individuals named as 3Key executives on a recent press release do not turn up a digital footprint. The same applies to Ryan S Hodder, who is named as Chief Marketing Officer on the City statement and is quoted as observing that “practice, teamwork and passion are the foundations of success, and these values are in abundance at Manchester City.”

Investigative reporter Martin Calladine set online hares racing on Twitter on Monday when he charged people with finding Hodder or other executives named on a press release announcing the arrival of 3Key into the “decentralised finance” market a month ago. After 48 hours, the closest anyone has come to verified information is a photo of a man with a ginger beard in a checked suit who may or may not be 3Key’s “chief growth strategist’ Jacob Caine. City, despite requests, have not commented on the matter.

On Tuesday two websites associated with 3Key went offline. One of the sites returned on Wednesday with a slick design but enigmatic content. While the site says 3Key have been in operation since 2020, there is no mention of staff members or of products available to the public.

The site does, however, seem to suggest that 3Key are in the business of facilitating trade in digital assets such as cryptocurrency and NFTs. The site also introduces the concept of CeDeFi, a combination of “the best of both” centralised and decentralised finance, “to make it simple for everyone to participate”.

In announcing the deal last week, City hailed the tie-up. Stephen Cieplik, the senior vice president of Global Partnership Sales, City Football Group, said: “We are excited to partner with 3Key in their journey to simplify the decentralised finance (DeFi) trading analysis user experience through the power of football to engage with our fans with a range of content and activations.”

City have been approached by the Guardian for comment but club sources have told The Times that the Premier League champions will not activate any products or services connected to the partnership unless they are happy that all relevant regulations have been met.