Perth Glory chief executive Tony Pignata declined to be drawn on the specifics of a proposed sale of the football club to a London-based cryptocurrency exchange, overshadowing a state government announcement this morning of a sponsorship deal with the club.
Appearing before media this morning, Mr Pignata declined to answer specific questions regarding a deal made by owner Tony Sage to sell 80 per cent of the club to London Football Exchange (LFE), saying that an agreement had not yet been completed.
That response came despite LFE announcing overnight that it had entered into an asset sale and purchase agreement to acquire a majority shareholding in the club, subject to approval by the Football Federation of Australia.
According to that announcement, the deal will be finalised on or around March 30, with Mr Sage continuing as chair.
Mr Sage said in that statement that he was looking forward to the club becoming a cornerstone of LFE’s strategy to acquire seven football teams from across the globe, in similar composition to City Football Group.
“We have had a 13-year journey to get this far,” he said.
“I am looking forward to the next 15 years where we want to become the dominant force in terms of footballing standards but also in terms of youth development for both the men’s and women’s game.”
Founded in 2016, LFE claims it raised $70 million in a digital token offering in 2018, and has cryptocurrencies available on exchanges such as Bithumb Global and StellarX.
The group sponsored Perth Glory during the 2018-19 football season, with Mr Pignata at the time praising the group for what he called its bold approach to reshaping the financial structure and direction of the game.
He declined to offer specific thoughts regarding LFE’s operations this morning.
“Whatever their trading, it’s got nothing to do with the club,” Mr Pignata said.
“Tony [Sage] has been working on this deal for 18 months.
“He understands what’s behind the whole thing.”
LFE has attempted to purchase groups throughout Europe before, with a deal to acquire a team in France going awry for unspecified reasons.
Appearing on 6PR this morning, LFE chief executive Jim Aylward declined to offer further details of the purpoted deal, but denied that he intended to strip assets from and sell the club at a later date.
Mr Pignata said he wasn’t concerned about the investment, saying he trusted Mr Sage and Mr Aylward in their dealings, and that there would be no changes to the club if the deal went ahead.
“The LFE group are not into running clubs, they’re about investing in clubs and letting people who know how to run clubs run clubs,” he said.
The news of LFE’s deal with Perth Glory came as the state government announced it would sponsor the club as it’s set to make its first appearance in the Asian Champions League.
That sponsorship will see ‘Perth’ branded on the team’s jerseys, with the six qualifying games the club will play expected to reach 50 million viewers globally.
“Sponsoring Perth Glory in the Asian Champions League is a real coup for Brand Perth, showcasing our beautiful State to a digital reach of more than 586 million people in Asia,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
“This deal ensures we can leverage Perth Glory’s success in our key Asian markets, allowing Brand Perth to beam into the lounge rooms of tens of millions of people.”
Asian Engagement Minister Peter Tinley said the sponsorship fitted the state’s Asian engagement strategy.
“The Asian Engagement Strategy is designed to ensure WA leverages the enormous opportunities that exist in the region, which represents 42 per cent of the world’s economy, to diversify our economy and create jobs,” he said.
“Sponsoring Perth Glory to take part in the Champions League, with its massive Asian television and digital media audiences, can help us kick a lot of the strategy’s goals.”
In his comments to the media, Mr McGowan said he was not concerned about sponsoring the club, despite uncertainty surrounding its sale.