Football preliminaries are underway at the Tokyo Olympics, but sports-minded crypto enthusiasts are looking past the on-field action and toward the way clubs are financed – and what kind of role club tokens could play.

Japanese clubs at all levels – from pro clubs in the Japanese J1 league all the way down to recently created, non-league grassroots teams are now embracing the notion of shared ownership with fans through club tokens, as well as crypto sponsorship deals, non-fungible token (NFT) tie-ins and more.

The latest club to take the plunge is YSCC Yokohama, of the third-tier J3 league. Per a press release, the club has sold just under USD 0.5m worth of fully tradeable fan tokens since launching in May this year.

The club is just one of a growing number of teams using technology from the crypto firm Financie. And YSCC has promised its token-holding fans voting rights for uniform design, player of the year/month awards, pre-match meetings with staff and access to VIP tickets or special matches.

But more than these immediate benefits, Japanese clubs are stating that their tokens will in effect allow fans to invest in the success of the club. Coins’ values could rise spectacularly should a club like YSCC, for instance, win promotion to the J2 league or even one day reach the J1.

Fan tokens are common in European football, with mega-clubs like Italy’s JuventusAC Milan and Roma, as well as France’s PSG all launching fan coins.

But these are massive clubs with huge international appeal. As such, their coins have been listed on global exchanges such as Binance. Initiatives like YSCC’s are the opposite end of the scale, focusing on newer clubs with smaller fanbases – but allowing grassroots fans to get in at the very beginning of these teams’ footballing and financial journeys.

YSCC marked the success of its token launch with a specially arranged match for token-holding supporters against J3 rivals Kamatamare Sanuki.

Coin holders were also given free memorabilia and allowed to take part in on-pitch events.

Back in May, a former J1 team coach told Cryptonews.com that “more and more nowadays I hear young business-minded types who are starting up football clubs talking about using [blockchain and crypto] as a way to raise money.”

Financie has also launched tokens for brand-new clubs, such as Coedo Kawagoe FC, launched in 2020 by two local businessmen in their 20s. Coedo’s non-league rivals Shibuya City FC have also launched a token with the same platform.

The bond between football and crypto is growing strong in Japan.

One of Japanese football’s biggest stars of recent years, Keisuke Honda, is an avid crypto proponent and bitcoin (BTC) enthusiast. Despite now being at the twilight of his career, back in February Honda announced that he would be willing to play for any club that would pay him BTC 1, Football Channel reported (via Yahoo Japan).

Meanwhile, YSCC’s larger city rivals, Yokohama Marinos, this month struck a partnership and shirt sponsorship deal with Remixpoint, the operator of the BITpoint crypto exchange. The latter has claimed it will seek to develop Marinos-themed NFTs for fans.

Also, major Spanish football club Valencia is set to promote their own fan token, VCF, on their playing shirts next season as part of a new partnership with Chiliz (CHZ), the blockchain provider which owns the Socios.com fan engagement platform, reported SportsPro. The two parties say that Valencia will be the first team in the world to promote their own fan token on the front of their shirt. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the 2Playbook website reports that it does not match the annual USD 5.7m that was being paid by online bookmaker Bwin.

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