What Happens When Crypto Meets Ted Lasso


The club’s Broadfield Stadium is nothing like the sprawling arenas in the Premier League: Trees are visible behind the stands, which are rarely full, and many of the club’s sponsors are local, including a waste-management firm whose logo is splashed beneath the box where the owners sit. Before matches, fans gather at a sports bar next to the stadium to drink beer and reminisce about the club’s fleeting moments of glory, like a recent upset win over the Premier League’s Fulham and a valiant 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in 2011. “That’s what you want,” said Scott Anscomb, a 49-year-old Crawley fan, as he stood outside the bar on a recent weekend. “It’s about dreams and memories.”

But decades of struggles have also ingrained a certain realism. On a recent morning, Sam Gadsdon, a lifelong fan who serves as Crawley’s media manager, led a tour of the stadium, where a maze of narrow hallways connects the locker rooms to a set of offices. Mr. Gadsdon stopped in a hall lined with autographed jerseys. “This is the hall of fame,” he said, “if you can call it that.”

Longtime fans say they’ve been impressed with the transparency and accessibility of the crypto owners. Mr. Johnson lives in Southern California, but he has made six trips to Crawley in 2022; in August, days after the birth of his daughter, he flew over to help the club sign new players. “It’s nice — you go to games, and you can say hello and chat,” said Carol Bates, a fan who attends home and away matches.

The bar was low. WAGMI bought Crawley from a Turkish steel magnate who kept the club in League Two for six seasons but spoke limited English and only occasionally interacted with fans. A previous owner, Mohammed Azwar Majeed, was imprisoned for tax fraud. Perhaps with that history in mind, some fans are concerned that the out-of-town crypto investors will disappear as fast as they arrived. “My fear is these guys will get bored with it,” said Peter Frake, who runs a local security business that used to sponsor the team’s jerseys.

But most of all, fans have grown doubtful that Mr. Johnson, Mr. Smith and their collaborators have enough soccer expertise to build a successful team. The most important decision any owner makes is in hiring a coach. When the owners bought the team, Crawley was managed by John Yems, a lower-league veteran who was soon fired, after players had accused him of racism. To replace Mr. Yems, WAGMI hired Kevin Betsy, a youth coach at Arsenal who had never managed a team in the lower leagues.



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