In August last year Brentford signed a two-year partnership with a company called Coinjar which had originally launched in Australia in 2013 but had also developed a UK base. Coinjar is not a cryptocurrency itself but what is called a ‘cryptocurrency exchange’. The Club statement explained: “With the surge and popularity of cryptocurrency continuing to rise, CoinJar is the ultimate platform to buy, sell and spend Bitcoin’. The statement ended with:
‘Like many investments, cryptoassets carry risk. Given the potentially extreme price volatility, the value of cryptoassets may fall rapidly or over time. Cryptoassets are currently unregulated by the FCA, so people buying cryptoassets are unable to access the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service’.
One of the aims of the partnership was to ‘raise fan understanding of cryptocurrency’. On 27th May this year the Club sent out an email to some BFC members. It was called ’Test your crypto and Brentford knowledge and you could win a signed shirt from Brentford FC’.There was a similar post on social media sent to all followers of Brentford FC.
Anybody who provided answers to the quiz questions (accurately or otherwise) were asked by Coinjar ‘What’s your email address? We’ll contact you via email if you’re the winner’. They were also told ‘The winners will be announced on this page and contacted via email once the competition ends on 9 June 2022’. The logical conclusion to be drawn from these statements is that only the winners would be contacted by email but that by running this competition Coinjar will have gathered the email addresses of everybody who entered. They will then be able to contact those people to interest them in Coinjar services. This raises the issue of whether those supporters realised that when they entered the competition.
Then there is a form of regulation which is that exercised by the Advertising Standards (ASA). In March this year the ASA issued a warning. ‘Cryptoassets are complex and volatile products that are also becoming increasingly popular and widespread in the UK. Because of the risks and complexities involved, advertisers of cryptoassets must take particular care to ensure they do not mislead consumers and are not socially irresponsible in the way they promote them’. It includes this key line ‘Advertisers must clearly state that cryptoassets are not regulated by the FCA’. It cited seven companies which had not done this, Coinjar was not one of them.To confirm with the ASA requirements the Club includes a cautionary statement about cryptocurrencies when advertising about Coinjar is shown on the electronic displays at pitchside in the stadium.
The third set of relevant rules are those in the Data Protection Act of 2018 which was the UK’s way of implementing the Europe-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).These apply to all relevant UK businesses not specifically crypto businesses. These rules require that “Everyone responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’”
Given that background we set out to clarify whether the email sent to some BFC members followed all the rules and regulations. We focused on whether those Brentford supporters who entered the quiz were told that by providing their email address they were agreeing to receive communications from Coinjar about cryptocurrencies or indeed anything other than whether they had won a prize. There did not appear to have been any information provided at that stage about what would happen to the email addresses given to Coinjar.
So we shared this detail with the Club and posed the following questions:
3. In the absence of a warning such as that provided by Hollywood bets does the Club believe Coinjar’s practice of enticing supporters to provide personal data so that ‘investment’ products can be pushed to them is GDPR compliant and is also in the spirit of a club which is conscious of its obligations to the community?
The Club replied: ‘In this case as is made clear in the responses to the questions above, we believe it would have been very clear to entrants that if they opted into the newsletter that is what they would receive and it is therefore wholly GDPR compliant. I also attach a copy of the social media post which was used for this activation. We believe the warning that was included prominently at the bottom of the creative is clear about the complexity of crypto, the fact that it is unregulated, the lack of remedies that apply to regulated financial services products and the tax and capital risks is consistent with our obligations to the community.’
We went back to the Club with an important follow-up question:’Will those entrants who did not consent to subscribe to the weekly newsletter and whose details will be kept in Coinjar’s systems for 3 months receive any communications from Coinjar during that period?’
The Club replied: ‘Coinjar have told us that the reason for keeping the email addresses of those who did not consent to subscribing to the Coinjar newsletter was to be able to contact them if they were the winner. Only the winner would get an email’.
If that remains the case we think that concludes our investigation into the specifics of this case. But let us know what you think by emailing us at email@example.com. We will then launch an online survey of BU members to get your views on the relationship between football clubs and cryptocurrencies. So watch this space.