When Non-Fungible Tokens first became a thing, most of the use cases were confined to the world of digital art. However that’s now changing as new industries jump on the NFT bandwagon, and some of the most innovative use cases are emerging in the realm of European football.
Football’s leading clubs and players, and even ruling organizations such as FIFA, are using NFTs to generate new revenue streams and create more effective ways to engage with fans, especially those from younger demographics.
The most obvious use case for NFTs in football is that of the digital trading card, and a whole bunch of startups are putting the idea into effect. With paper-based trading cards, fans generally buy a pack of five or 10 random cards and have no idea which players they’ve got until they’re opened. Because some player’s cards are much rarer than others, the most difficult to obtain will become highly sought after and can fetch high prices – often way more expensive than it is to buy a single, random pack.
NFTs are the same, only they’re digital versions of those cards. With Fanzone – a company that sells digital trading cards for the German national team and Bundesliga clubs – the NFTs have five levels of rarities, with 25,000 Onboarding, 3,000 common, 1,000 rare, 500 epic and just 100 legendary cards available.
If someone buys a pack of 5 Fanzone NFTs for 10 euros and they find a popular player with Epic or Legendary rarity within it, they can be sure that it will sell for a significantly higher price than the pack itself. Fanzone also throws in some Special Cards into the mix, which are usually limited to just 50 cards and sold through its online store. Once opened, the cards can be traded on a secondary NFT marketplace. One Special Edition card for Kai Havertz was notably sold for over 1,000 Euros following the primary sale.
One of the first movers in the NFT-based digital trading card space was Sorare, which sells cards representing players from over 150 European clubs. Some of the most in-demand Sorare NFTs have sold for prices in excess of 50,000 Euros. With Sorare, each season it will create 1,111 new cards per player, with 1,000 of Limited rarity, 100 Rare, 10 Super Rare and just one at the Unique level.
The reason for Sorare’s success is that it adds a gaming element to the experience too. Players can create a team of five players and then compete against other player’s teams in various competitions to try and win prizes paid out in cryptocurrency. Players can buy cards from the open marketplace in an effort to put together an all-star team that can take on the very best in the game.
Evolving the concept further is Maincard, a fantasy play-to-earn platform that aims to provide an alternative to traditional sportsbooks. With Maincard, players can purchase NFTs that act as a kind of in-game currency. Each NFT allows players to predict the outcome of real-world football matches. The NFT has a number of “lives”, based on its level and rarity, and an incorrect prediction will result in one of those lives being lost. Get too many wrong and the NFT effectively dies, and can no longer be used. On the flip side, an NFT’s lives can be recovered by correctly guessing the outcome of games. The more lives an NFT has, the greater its value – meaning players who repeatedly guess the scores right can stand to make a profit.
Maincard believes it’s an idea with huge potential and is consequently planning to scale its NFT prediction game to the masses through a partnership with Myria, a gaming-focused Layer-2 scaling solution for Ethereum. Myria enables Maincard’s NFTs to be sold instantly and with minimal fees compared to transactions that are hosted on the main Ethereum blockchain, solving one of the key problems faced by many other blockchain-based games. As part of the partnership, Maincard NFTs can also be purchased directly from Myria’s NFT marketplace.
Moving away from gaming and digital trading cards, FIFA recently announced its very own NFT project called FIFA+ Collect. In this case, the NFTs represent video clips of some of the most magical moments from previous World Cups, such as Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal against England in 1986, or Roberto Baggio’s penalty shoot-out miss in the 1994 Final against Brazil. The NFTs can then be traded on third-party marketplaces.
FIFA+ Collect is built on the Algorand blockchain and the NFTs are sold at random in packs. Those who bought a pack before Nov. 20 were entered into a prize draw, with the chance to win a five day/four night, all expenses paid trip to watch the World Cup final in Qatar, among other prizes.
NFTs and cryptocurrency tokens also enable fans to get more involved with the clubs they love. With Socios.com, fans of some of Europe’s biggest teams, including Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Lazio, Juventus and others can acquire so-called “fan tokens” that allow them to vote on certain key decisions their clubs take, such as the new kit design for next season. More recently Socios has gotten into NFTs too, offering exclusive collections for teams. The Socios NFTs act as digital trading cards too, with the added incentive of unlock “money can’t buy” experiences such as online meet and greets with the team’s star players.
NFTs in football are a relatively new concept that’s still being explored, but already it’s clear that they have a very promising future. NFTs are the perfect tool for strengthening the bond between fans and their clubs, providing new experiences that cannot be replicated in any other way. As the technology becomes more commonplace, we can expect NFTs to play a more prominent role in the lives of football fans’ lives for years to come.