Soccer-Arsenal reprimanded for second time for fan token adverts

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Premier League - Arsenal v Manchester United

(Reuters) - Britain's advertising watchdog upheld a ruling against Arsenal over their promotion of fan token company Socios on Wednesday, determining that the two ads posted on the club's website and Facebook were "misleading" and irresponsible".

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) said the adverts had failed to make clear the tokens had to be bought with a cryptocurrency, taken advantage of fans' inexperience and did not warn of the risk of trading crypto.

Digital fan token firm Socios has deals with six Premier League clubs, including champions Manchester City, as well as Barcelona, Juventus, Paris St Germain and a host of top European teams.

Fan tokens allow supporters of soccer and other sports clubs to vote on minor decisions such as songs played at matches after a goal is scored, or images used on social media.

The tokens, which can be traded on exchanges like other cryptocurrencies, are prone to wild swings in price and often have little connection to on-field performance.

In a statement to the ASA, Arsenal argued that the polls were "not a gimmick or a way to promote fan tokens as an investment opportunity, the polls were actually the purpose and essence of the fan tokens".

The club added Socios was well known in the soccer community as a cryptocurrency platform which meant viewers of the ads would understand that fan tokens had to be bought with cryptocurrency.

The ASA upheld all sections of its December ruling.

The organisation said the club "did not include any risk warning making consumers aware that paid-for Fan Tokens were cryptoassets which were unregulated in the UK and cryptoassets could go down as well as up".

It added the adverts were misleading because they did not make clear the tokens were cryptoassets which were not regulated in Britain, and had to be purchased with another cryptocurrency.

"(The ads) were irresponsible because they took advantage of consumers' inexperience or credulity and trivialised engaging with and investing in cryptoassets," the ASA said.

"The ads must not appear again in the form complained about."

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Hyderabad; Editing by Christian Radnedge)