Buying a small-town soccer club with the aim to propel it into the Premier League — the world’s most popular football league — is a script suitable for a Netflix series.
In fact, actor Ryan Reynold’s bid to revitalize lower-league Welsh soccer team Wrexham FC has already caught the attention of Disney+ writers.
It’s a quaint, quintessentially British underdog story of how an ultra-rich Hollywood actor can do something different with his wealth. However, Reynolds has no connection to Wrexham; he flies in for most games, and he’s unlikely to live out the rest of his days building out the deprived historic mining town.
The story has netted mainstream media attention from the likes of the BBC, the Guardian and Sky News.
In the Bitcoin world, a similar story is unraveling. However, it’s spearheaded by a local boy who’s using Bitcoin not only to boost the Real Bedford Football Club but his hometown as well.
In the Bitcoin world, Peter McCormack is a familiar face, hosting the most popular podcast What Bitcoin Did. According to the Guardian and the BBC, he is a blogger and “crypto guru” invariably betting on Bitcoin
Over the past two years, he has strived to turn around the beleaguered Bedford FC by using Bitcoin. Real Bedford reached promotion in May, buoyed by new uniforms, new logos and, crucially, a new legion of fans.
However, Real Bedford is also what McCormack calls the “Bitcoin football team.” Not only does he achieve his boyhood dream of running a successful football team, but it also seeks to discretely encourage fans and onlookers to engage with the world’s largest digital currency, Bitcoin.
But does the club have the legs to make it into the Premier League? And what’s the point of putting the Bitcoin logo on the shirt, hosting Bitcoin meet-ups before every game, and inviting key opinion leaders of the Bitcoin world to games? And what on earth must the locals think of the “orange-pilled” takeover?
McCormack bought Bedford FC in 2021 during the heady highs of the bull run when BTC was comfortably above $40,00 and talk of the Bitcoin price hitting six figures dominated Cointelegraph headlines. Propelled by the high Bitcoin prices, the club secured half a million dollars in sponsorship for the first year.
Despite buying the club being a boyhood dream, most people thought McCormack was mad to take on the running of a football club with the fanbase garnered from a volatile digital currency:
“I think this is one of these projects whereby I don’t think anyone really understood at the start. They’re like, ‘Whatever doesn’t make any sense.’”
Local media thought McCormack was crazier still. The BBC and other British mainstream media caught wind of the story, characterizing it as the latest crypto bro to splash out on a self-indulgent purchase.
Jeff Booth, the author of the Bitcoin book The Price of Tomorrow, tells Magazine that even if it is a wealthy Bitcoin investor splurging on a passion, it’s a non-issue — particularly as Bitcoin is part of the project:
“Through his interests, he infects others through so other people that like football. Other people that want to follow his interests to take this to a championship, Premier League and everything else, now have an impression that they can join the ride and be part of it.”
Ultimately, Booth explains, “I couldn’t care less what he wants to do […] He’s using this vehicle to be able to advance a whole bunch of other stuff, which is really cool.”
Despite the critical treatment in the media, two years on, McCormack and his team are still wiping down tables in the clubhouse bar, traveling to away games, hosting Bitcoin meet-ups and even washing the Real Bedford’s uniforms in his home — all while the price per BTC has crashed and Bitcoin continues to take a beating in popular media. Plus, the club will sport a women’s team with plans to expand into disabled and youth teams.
Real Bedford commentator Will Roberts compares McCormack to a “pantomime villain […] who sort of comes in and radicalizes everything, changes everything, and everyone automatically goes against it.” It’s only natural that it ruffles a few feathers:
“But the closer you get, the more you understand what a good person he is and what a good organization he’s running because it is an organization — not just a football club.”
The club’s Bitcoin branding isn’t very subtle. The strips are bright orange with the Bitcoin logo on the abdomen. The club was established during a block height as opposed to a date, and almost everything can be bought or paid for in satoshis (small amounts of Bitcoin). Why bother? Why go to great lengths to advertise a volatile digital currency that’s understood by a select group of Brits?
McCormack is a marketer by profession, and Bitcoin is one of the most recognizable brands worldwide. There are now Real Bedford supporters clubs in Ghana, Tanzania and even Malaysia. The supporter base for Real Bedford rivals teams five divisions higher, and matches are live-streamed and enjoyed by Bitcoin advocates worldwide.
Gandalf (not his real name), who is part of the marketing team at Bitcoin mining company Braiins, tells Magazine:
“If you just bought Bedford and called it Bedford and it was just the local team, we wouldn’t all be here. Like, he’s been very clever about making it a Bitcoin thing and then that gets new support and new attention into the club.”
A local elected councilor for the Liberal Democrats, Jake Simpson attends the last game of the season. He explains to Magazine that, thanks to the Bitcoin takeover, Bedford is gaining “international attention, which is bringing international money. And you know, when your business and you accept cryptocurrencies, your customer base expands massively.”
“You know, you’re attracting more people, which is why there’s so many international people here already because they’re interested in cryptocurrency — they’re interested in Bitcoin, which is bringing them here to Bedford.”
Bitcoin puts places on the world map — from Bitcoin Beach in El Zonte to Bitcoin Lake in Guatemala or Bitcoin Jungle in Costa Rica. In doing so, it can raise up less economically advantaged communities and regions around the world. That’s the second part of the Real Bedford story, as McCormack says he wants to “raise up his town.”
What do the locals think?
Over the course of 30 street interviews conducted in Bedford, the overarching sentiment toward Bitcoin is negative. One Christian preacher says that the surveillance element to digital currencies was unnerving — before realizing that he might be confusing CBDCs, or central bank digital currencies, and Bitcoin.
There’s a huge sentiment gap between the Bitcoin believers and the Bedford locals. One Bedfordian simply says, “Avoid”; others call it an outright scam and that they wouldn’t want to lose their money in such a scheme. Some locals have heard of the Real Bedford takeover; others knew of McCormack’s story.
Few locals can accurately explain what Bitcoin is or what it does — highlighting that some of the criticism could come from a position of ignorance or an unwillingness to engage with the currency frequently labeled a threat to the environment or a “dark tool” by mainstream media.
McCormack is aware of the negative views that cloak Bitcoin. There is no desire to “force Bitcoin” onto the people of the town — it’s about using the team as a Trojan horse for greater levels of Bitcoin adoption:
“I don’t want people buying it and losing money and don’t force it on people who come to the ground. They can see it, they can come to our meetups, but it’s a soft touch.”
The Real Bedford website, for example, shows a statement saying, “Why you shouldn’t buy Bitcoin.”
Some of the locals are converts, however. Sampson says, “It’s great to see Bitcoin come into my town […] It’s massive, and it just makes me feel really proud to be from Bedford and makes me really excited, to be honest.”
“I think they’ve still got to be a lot of education around it. On how, you know, my mom or my dad can go to a coffee shop and buy Bitcoin. They wouldn’t feel comfortable about doing that yet. But that sort of thing happening in the town can only boost an economy in a way.”
What’s the score so far?
As opposed to bleating about Bitcoin to Bedfordians, McCormack has firmly stuck a flag in the ground and called Bitcoin advocates around the world to visit:
“I don’t talk about Bitcoin much here because Bedford’s a deprived town, and I don’t want people thinking, ‘Oh my God, there’s that guy who’s made some money on Bitcoin.’”
However, that hasn’t stopped fans — of Bitcoin or the team — from taking Bitcoin adoption into their own hands.
From the trunk of a car in the Real Bedford parking lot, Chris Gordon of Bitcoin payments service Bridge 2 Bitcoin shows a local Bedfordian how to accept Bitcoin. He tells Magazine:
“So, it was a business owner who’s interested in accepting Bitcoin payments, and it’s a completely new concept to him. So, it so happens that I happen to have a point-of-sale device in the back of the car.”
Gordon talks the local fan through the options in the hope that a “few businesses in Bedfordshire start to accept Bitcoin soon.” Bitcoin is already the payment of choice in the clubhouse, and for Real Bedford merchandise — and given that paying in Bitcoin looks different from paying with Visa or cash — it can raise some eyebrows.
Moreover, the mingling of both Bitcoin and soccer fans in a relaxed, pitchside environment is an opportunity for those unfamiliar with the cryptocurrency to ask questions. Matches can be long, drawn-out affairs of 0-0 draws lasting 90 minutes with a 15-minute break. Asking about the giant B on the players’ shirts or the fact that the club was founded at a block height — not on a date — could pass the time.
Crypto own goal?
Bitcoin’s market cap is roughly half a trillion dollars. Crypto, however, has a far greater fanbase and is worth over $1 trillion.
Real Bedford, however, is a Bitcoin-only club. Its Twitter page is against fan tokens, NFTs and DAOs — the entirety of the crypto world outside Bitcoin.
Commentator Roberts, who knew “nothing” about Bitcoin prior to working at Real Bedford, explains that the people of Bedford are “getting there.”
“A lot of people are made further aware of potentially the differences between not just grouping cryptocurrencies tougher — and that Bitcoin is definitely a separate entity to that.”
The crypto distractions at the club are sponsors. Gemini, Casa and other crypto company logos are displayed on billboards around the stadium, which McCormack hopes to expand and renovate through Bitcoin sponsorship. Despite his devotion to Bitcoin, he’s aware that taking advantage of the speculation in crypto could benefit the club:
“If I did a shitcoin, I could raise a billion, and I would get this club in the Premier League in nine years because you have the money to do it. I could build a 200-million-pound stadium if I did a shitcoin. It’s really tempting.”
Ultimately, Real Bedford is a Bitcoin-only club. McCormack only holds Bitcoin and is focused on building Bedford with Bitcoin in mind. However, getting Real Bedford into the Premier League is a long-term, perhaps lifelong commitment. With the first promotion out of the way, it’ll be the 2030s before Bedford has a team in the most prestigious football league.
McCormack’s undeterred, however. “I’m going to be here for the rest of my life here in Bedford at every game I can possibly be at trying to lift up my town.” And the way to get this lower-league team into the Premier League?
“It requires hard work, a bit of luck and for Bitcoiners to get behind it.”