Because fan tokens are usually pegged to Bitcoin, their value has fluctuated wildly, and in the race for cash, clubs haven’t always done a good job of educating their supporters about the risks. Arsenal—whose fan token has dropped more than 80 percent in value since launch—was censured by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which found that the club “trivialized investment in crypto-assets and took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity.”

Everything changed after the success of “profile picture projects” like the Bored Ape Yacht Club. “When you actually look at projects that have been launched across football, most of them are just these PFP images with nothing really behind them,” says Tim Mangnall, CEO of sports-focused NFT agency Capital Block, which has worked with Turkish clubs Galatasaray and Trabzonspor, as well as AS Monaco and Legia Warsaw. “Last year is when it really started to kick off,” he says. “It was just money being pumped in, and it was an unrealistic growth that we saw. Now we’re back to reality and a lot of these projects are cutting budgets and firing people.”

Initially, soccer-based NFT projects at least pretended to be offering something tangible: meet-and-greets with players, match tickets, access to exclusive content. As the market boomed, it became a world of vaporware and rug pulls. “When you bought trading cards or baseball cards back in the day, you didn’t know it was going to rise to the extent it did, but you bought it for the love of it,” says Mangnall. “Too many people now are trying to build their whole campaign around the speculative price, and obviously the world doesn’t really work like that.”

When he speaks to clubs across Europe who want to launch NFTs, their primary concern is money. “The number one thing is, ‘Oh, we want to make millions of pounds overnight,’” Mangnall says. “There’s a real problem in the industry because there’s a miseducation, and there’s a misunderstanding in the market of what an NFT is. It could be membership, it can be rewards, it can be something as simple as a ticket. It’s not about these big revenues.”

Everything is backwards. NFTs and the blockchain are infrastructure, not investments—buying an expensive digital asset because it’s an NFT is like rushing to buy your team’s new kit because you can pay by Visa, or because it’s delivered by DHL. “I think one big misunderstanding has been to frame NFTs as a space, a market, or a category, and it’s not. It’s just a technology,” says Julia. “When you have a booming technology like this, it attracts people who are here for the wrong reasons, who are not thinking long-term. It’s bad for the fans.”