This was meant to be an interview about Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu’s The Turmeric Co. and why it is important for players to prepare for a life post-career. It ended up, via diversions into the wisdom of Hippocrates and the disintegration of civilisation, as a discussion focusing on cryptocurrency, a fad that has ripped through football and why one of the blockchain’s early advocates would still not get a grandmother involved in it.
Robson-Kanu, the Acton born and bred forward who scored one of the most iconic goals in Wales’ history, had set up a company, Sports Ledger, alongside his brother four years ago to dip his toes into “the fascinating space”. While he has since moved on to running a rapidly expanding nutrition business that counts Brentford, Crystal Palace and Everton among its clients, his experience gives him a deeper insight into how it is all intended to work.
The 32-year-old is fluent in the complex language of crypto and it is striking to hear him speak about the “inevitability” of it becoming the dominant way transactions will be made in the future. It all sounds convincing, the salesman spiel undoubtedly impressive, and yet it is a real struggle to not emerge with an overriding feeling of scepticism around its future.
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“We live in a debt-based monetary system and the impact federal reserves have,” Robson-Kanu says. “What actually is money? Money is time. What’s the transaction? It’s a contract. Digital currencies, alternative currencies, and digital ledgers that allow transactions to take place seamlessly peer to peer throughout the world without any third party or central authority controlling it.
“We’ve always been a transaction based civilization whether it was rocks, silver and gold or what we now call cash. It’s always been there but it’s progressed century on century and digital currency is a natural progression for me. You can see the adoption of it is a formality.”
Between our conversation and publication, more than $600million (£457million) has been stolen by hackers from the Ronin ledger, the value of NFTs being promoted by John Terry among others fell by 90% and several clubs are reviewing their partnerships with the fan token website Socios because of concerns around the company’s business practice.
On the flip side the Premier League is looking to announce its own NFT collection and Liverpool last week released a series of digital collectibles. “A fun and innovative way to celebrate being an LFC fan,” the club said in a lengthy press release in which it is not until the 13th paragraph that a vital warning is provided. “The club would like to make it clear to supporters that its NFTs are digital collectible works of art and should not be considered investments.” The release also failed to mention that the sale is likely to earn the club about £20million, although half the profits will be pledged to their charitable foundation. Several other clubs are working on similar forays into the market.
Robson-Kanu describes football’s growing interest as “inevitable”, adding: “It’s just awareness of the stakes in terms of sponsorship and partnerships. There’s a rise in terms of interest. It’s a very volatile market so you want to understand what you’re doing or you wouldn’t be telling your grandmother to go and get involved in it necessarily at this stage.”
One of the core tenets of crypto as a concept is the ability to cut out greedy bankers and allow peers to exchange directly. But when the entire market is so volatile and many entry-level users are uneducated in the nuances, is regulation not necessary?
Robson-Kanu does not agree. “Regulation from whom?” he says. “The crashes we’ve seen from our existing infrastructure over the last thirty or forty years have been within the current setup. So who should the regulators be? It’s almost like, well if it’s to do with regulation it shouldn’t be to do with the regulation of where the flow of transactions can happen. There shouldn’t be a need for a third party to make that happen. Cryptocurrencies offer that. Blockchain specifically offers that, allows people to transact peer to peer.
“The cries for regulation come from the regulators, those who won’t be required once there is mass adoption of the technology. It’s an interesting space for sure. My point about not getting your grandmother in is that you need to understand it. Once you understand it then get involved as much as you can but it’s about understanding it first and taking the time to do that.”
What about education, then, to protect users from potentially losing a lot of money before they are allowed to invest? “Maybe there needs to be a blockchain school,” Robson-Kanu adds. “Maybe that will help. There’s a lot of information online. Probably too much if you don’t know where to start. It’s a fascinating time. I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers but it’s been interesting to see how the space has developed over the last eight or nine years.”
Sports Ledger, according to documents on Companies House, has not filed any accounts and there have been three applications for the company to be struck off. Robson-Kanu has far more certain answers when discussing the growth of the Turmeric Co.
He had used the spice as a tonic since two cruciate ligament ruptures as a teenager threatened to derail a career that brought 425 senior appearances before it even began. His body had rejected the prescribed painkillers following the second operation so his father, Rechi, began concocting natural remedies in the kitchen that were passed down from older generations. Within six weeks he was pain free.
Robson-Kanu describes it as the “secret weapon” that kept him healthy throughout his career and he recommended it regularly in dressing rooms. But he was exasperated by the lack of products on supermarket shelves so spotted a gap in the market.
“We’re not really educated properly in terms of nutrition and the impact it has on us,” he says. “There’s the famous quote from Hippocrates: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. What he’s saying is that what you put into your body in terms of food has a direct impact on health. We know that as a society. If someone’s diet consists of fast food, high sugar they are likely to be overweight or have some disease. It’s fundamentally proven through nutrition. But it’s not really spoken about how to lead a healthy diet and what that actually looks like.
“In terms of the legacy you leave, if you look at society and the generations to come it’s on decline and that’s because we’re living in such a consumer-based society that is all around speed, convenience and cheapness when it comes to health.
“We live in a treatment-based system where you wait to get sick and then get treated when actually if you can lead a life where you make good nutritional choices as part of your diet and lifestyle you’re more likely to lead a happy life. Looking at the next generation, they are at risk of being an unhappy and unhealthy society.”
Robson-Kanu has not officially retired from playing. He is training regularly by himself and while not actively looking for a club, should the right offer be made he would find it hard to say no. “I feel physically in the best condition of my life and I got fitter and stronger every year down to my nutrition and lifestyle,” he adds. “I’m not going to close the door and say it’s not going to happen.”
Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu is founder of The Turmeric Co. which partners with professional sports teams, NGBs and elite athletes to enhance their recovery and holistic health with its naturally produced shots.