Updated to include further comments from Liverpool FC and Tron.
To great fanfare across the interwebs, Tron's CEO announced earlier today that the platform had been invited to form “a partnership” with the legendary Liverpool Football Club.
It appears, however, that Justin Sun got the wrong end of the stick.
A spokesperson at the football club initially told Decrypt: “Liverpool Football Club has confirmed that it does not have a partnership with Tron.”
Another spokesman followed up later, saying Sun had in fact misconstrued an informal invitation—one that had been sent out to many companies in order to “better understand” their business.
Tron spokesman Cliff Edwards, on the other hand, insisted that the letter carried more weight than the club had let on.
"There was no ask to 'better understand' the business," he said. "The ask was to 'connect and explore a partnership,' which is exactly what Justin tweeted."
The hoo-ha began early today when flamboyant, avocado-loving Tron CEO Justin Sun tweeted (linked here and here and here): “Thank you for the unique and innovative invitation, Liverpool!” “I am impressed and I'm looking forward to exploring this #TRON new partnership together!”
A video attached to Sun’s tweet shows Liverpool, a storied English Premier League team, welcoming Tron with what looks like one of the club’s boilerplate greeting...things. A red envelope unfolds to reveal a screen, in which Liverpool F.C. manager Jurgen Klopp says, “We are Liverpool. This means more. This means more because you are associating yourself with...a philosophy, a philosophy that says more about you than being part of any other football club in the world.”
Exactly. That gibberish provided whatever passed for details today about the “partnership” and what it entailed. Sun went on to insist the proposed “partnership” was “official,” and promised that more details would be released soon. It wouldn’t be the first time Sun has made questionable claims—earlier this year the mogul bungled an apparent Tesla giveaway when critics accused him of pre-selecting the victor. The company has also been accused of plagiarizing its white paper.
It sort of made sense though. Tron could conceivably Live stream Liverpool’s games. Or, perhaps the videogame platform might be considering football on the blockchain, or even tokenized calf injuries. When we initially reached out to Liverpool F.C., however, a confused spokesperson said she was unaware of the news, and assured us it would be looked into.
“Tron!?” she repeated, bewildered such a thing could even exist.
Kraken CEO Jesse Powell offered a possible explanation, tweeting a screenshot of an email he had been sent touting a similar "partnership" with the club. But while Powell dismissed it as spam, it appears Sun decided to...spin it into a marketing stunt. Horses for courses.
The Liverpool spokesman eventually confirmed this, saying that the invitation was emailed to many other companies as part of the football club’s continual attempts to stay up to speed on new developments in technology. Indeed, both Tron and Powell's respective invitations had been dispatched by the same Jonathan Kane—the club's international director of business development.
No formal partnership, however, had been broached.
“We do regularly engage with lots of companies to better understand their business and we have extended an invitation to Tron—along with many others,” the spokesman said. “To be clear, no discussions have taken place.”
So, was it disingenuous of Sun to drum up excitement for an “official partnership”—even promising “more detail soon”—on the basis of an informal media package?
"I'd hardly call that disingenuous," said Edwards, the Tron spokesman. "[Sun] sincerely was interested and excited to explore a partnership. And who are you to say the invitation is informal. Looks pretty formal to me. I frankly am just baffled by your thinking."
He added: "Just to clarify, because someone after the fact labels something as informal doesn't mean the person who received the invite would think the same way. It was quite a glitzy invitation. And the press officer is not the person who sent the invitation. That person may think differently of his efforts to gain more sponsorships, wouldn't you think? I doubt he considers what he does informal."
There's little surprise it was a glitzy invitation. Founded in 1892, Liverpool—or “The Reds,” as those in the know call it!—is one of the UK’s most popular teams and has won 5 European Cups, more than any other English club.
Tron, meanwhile, a widely maligned crypto startup, has a habit of scoring bafflingly mainstream partnerships/acquisitions. Last year Tron acquired BitTorrent, the pioneering and popular peer-to-peer file sharing service. And who can forget the time it “teamed up” with Friends star Courtney Cox and the ALS association? We tried to, tbh, but the Internet and Old Man Google never forgets...
At least the fans seemed pleased. One wrote: “A partnership between #TRON & Liverpool, the current leader of Premiere League, semi-finalist in Champions League & one of the most legendary clubs in England, would be beyond massive for crypto to say the least.”
If the “partnership” ends up as nothing more than a PR stunt gone awry, today will surely be a day that lives in infamy—for Manchester United fans.