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WAGMI United & Bradford City- A Crypto- Clue To The Future?

Crypto piggy bank (Photo by Alesia Kozik from Pexels)

With the world at large seemingly growing ever more digital and indeed digitally aware in both its positive and negative applications- see the recent rise in popularity of NFT's (non-fungible tokens)- was it so much of a surprise to read of a club takeover bid by a group of cryptocurrency investors towards the back end of last year?



WAGMI United- the men with the virtual money and indeed NFTs- were rebuffed by Bradford City chairman Stefan Rupp following an ambitious bid by email, in response to which legal action was mooted just prior to Christmas. Even so, it does pose the question of whether we could see similar again and what the implications could be if such a move were ever to be considerably more successful at any level of the football pyramid.


Though perhaps given its relative infancy, the Bantams were right to be cautious?


The implication was that the attention generated by the proposed deal was one of the main factors behind the firm no. A statement from Rupp pointing to the fact that speculation around the potential selling up rippled far beyond the back pages of the Yorkshire Post- "A great deal has been aired publicly since the offer was made. This, as well as a number of factors which will remain private, has led me to this decision.” One of the major sticking points may well have been that cryptocurrency then remained by and large unregulated, which could and most likely would have drawn the ire of the Football League...


Until June 27th last year, when the Financial Conduct Authority stepped in and ordered Binance, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, to desist from its activities in the UK. Which was seen as the first sign that more legal attention will be paid to this newest of trading platforms in the near future.


Which is perhaps an inevitable consequence of life in the age of information. But turning matters back to the actual sport, just two words from WAGMI's own missive may well have been enough to have any City fan panicking. Namely that they would be looking to "outspend opponents", with the long-term goal of getting the club out of punching below what many supporters would consider their weight in League Two and back to the heady days of the Premier League years.


And while those were indeed champagne moments, as the likes of Benito Carbone took to the Valley Parade pitch, then-chairman Geoffrey Richmond splashing the cash to lure him from Aston Villa on wages of £40,000 a week. In what would later be seen as just one of many examples of spending well beyond his and indeed the club's means during the two seasons they dined out at the top table. Doing so inarguably left a massive financial black hole of the sort Rupp may have been understandably wary of, given the non-physical nature of the funding for the potential WAGMI United takeover.


Ironically, it was Carbone himself in part who helped in the delay of that fate, waiving a large percentage of money owed to him following the messy collapse of ITV Digital after relegation to what is now the Championship. That and further budget cuts following what Richmond himself would later remember as "six weeks of madness" pursuing the Premier League dream, including the redevelopment of Valley Parade itself into a 25,136 seater stadium, at which capacity it remains to this day.


Those who filled its stands, following Richmond's ultimately nearly completely destructive drive towards chasing the bigger boys, then witnessed a few seasons of relative free-fall post Premier League. A brutal reality-check after the joy of Paul Jewell guiding them to safety and Rodney Marsh making good on a promise to have his head shaved if they did, after confidently predicting they couldn't avoid falling back through the trap door in the course of his Soccer Saturday duties...


Just two months after that Jewell was gone, to Sheffield Wednesday.


The early days of his tenure, after replacing Chris Kamara in the dugout, found Richmond supplying the cash and backing his man as City prepared for a season back in the First Division following years of mid table Third and then Second Division finishes. Lee Mills and Isiah Rankin came in from Port Vale and Arsenal for million pound-plus transfer fees, and club legend Stuart McCall returned on a free transfer from Rangers to eventually lead the Bantams back to roost in the Premier League as the 1998/99 season ended with a 3-2 win over Wolves.


As McCall put it, "Helping the club into the top flight is a dream I have had for a long time. Dreams don't always come true, but I have been fortunate that so many of mine in football have been fulfilled, but this is the biggest one of all."


That success meant not two but three million pound players in the ranks, as the original fee of £950,000 paid to Oxford for Dean Windass rose by £50,000 thanks to a promotion clause.


Another would soon follow as £1.4 million went to Leeds in order for David Wetherall to move across Yorkshire, Jewell opting to add experience in also bringing in the likes of Neil Redfearn and Dean Saunders, whose “ooh, me back” goal celebration against Middlesbrough mocked the press description of the team as a sort of footballing Dad's Army!


Who do you think you are kidding, Geoffrey Richmond, as terrace wags may or may not have sung at the time...


A record low survival total of 36 points were on the board by the time the man who signed them left. Chris Hutchings named as replacement and Richmond wasting little time in giving him an even bigger transfer war-chest for their 2nd season in the top flight. Bringing in £1.5 million Ashley Ward and a club record fee of £2.5 million to secure David Hopkin alongside the abovementioned Carbone.


Hutchings' stay would be short-lived, one win in 12 games getting him the order of the boot and Jim Jefferies stepping in- though he couldn't stop the rot and a 2-1 defeat away at Everton sealed the drop. Following training ground tension with McCall, by December of 2001 he too was gone and Nicky Law appointed in his stead, leading the team to a 15th place finish in that first season back in Division One against a backdrop of debts to the tune of £13 million and the whole first team playing staff put up for sale...


A drop of four places by the end of the following season saw Law depart to be replaced by Bryan Robson, whose seven wins in 28 games in charge went quite some way to explaining the eventual further stumble into what would now be League One. Colin Todd stepped up from out of Robson's shadow to guide the Bantams to an entirely creditable 11th place in both of his two seasons in charge, as the administrators were finally called in.


When Todd exited stage left as Bradford sat just three points off the relegation zone in February 2007, time for that now rarest of breeds, the player manager!


It was Wetherall who was called upon to weather the storm, though he too fell short & City found themselves saying hello to their current stomping ground in League Two, with McCall as gaffer setting himself a target of an automatic upward return.


He couldn't deliver though, and left in February of 2010 with the club he so loved languishing in 16th place, a malaise from which they're still looking to recover under the stewardship of Derek Adams- they currently sit just outside the top ten on, you guessed it, 36 points at the time of writing!

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