NFTs Are Conquering Soccer
On Friday, July 29, an auctioneer at Sotheby’s in New York brought the hammer down on a piece of sporting history: a flying volley by the Barcelona icon Johann Cruyff in a game against Atletico Madrid in December 1973.
Moments like these used to exist largely in collective memory, handed down in “I was there” anecdotes, maybe dredged up for a YouTube highlights reel or a talking head documentary in some graveyard slot on Sky Sports. Today, though, they’re being commodified—chopped up, dressed up, and sold to the highest bidder. They are, inevitably, being turned into NFTs.
Soccer fell particularly hard for non-fungible tokens and, as they boomed and busted over the past 18 months, thousands of fans were sucked into dubious projects endorsed by footballers. At the same time, in an advertising market flattened by Covid-19, blockchain companies swooped in to sponsor big teams and events. This season, superstars Lionel Messi and Neymar will walk out for Paris Saint-Germain with “Crypto.com” emblazoned on their shirts. The implication is clear: Buy in, hold on, and you could be as rich as your heroes.
The truth has been quite different. The Athletic’s Joey D’Urso has detailed numerous examples of player and club-endorsed crypto projects tanking in value as the cryptocurrency market has collapsed. The “Ape Kids Football Club”—endorsed by England footballer John Terry—was a particularly egregious example. It launched with a flimsy backstory (“In a magical world where apes ruled the metaverse …”) and a series of 6,000 cartoon monkeys in soccer kits, which had to be quickly rolled back when it transpired that the project didn’t have the rights to use any of the club trademarks. After launch, the price collapsed from an average of $656 to just $65. Players who had hyped up the NFTs quietly deleted their social media posts.
Today, Ape Kids Football Club has been rebranded as “Inter Meta FC,” but the project’s Discord channel is a ghost town. A handful of owners pester the organizers about when they’re going to see a return on their investment; recently there was an earnest discussion on how best to target the upcoming World Cup in Qatar as a way to rekindle interest and drive up the value of their NFTs.
As the new club season begins, the spread of NFTs and cryptocurrency within soccer shows no signs of slowing down. Italy’s Serie A and La Liga recently signed deals to sell digital collectibles of in-game action, and the English FA is looking for partners for NFT projects for its national teams. At Sotheby’s, a “digital sculpture” of the Cruyff goal sold for $550,000. (He hangs in the air, frozen in time and dripping with virtual gold—no prizes for subtlety here.)
It’s hard not to be cynical. Soccer’s global appeal, the demographics of its fan base, and the money swilling around the game have always made it a magnet for the get-rich quick scheme, from the gambling sponsorships to the FX apps that promised to make foreign currency trading so easy you could do it down the pub, to platforms like FootballIndex, where you could buy and sell shares in players and collect dividends depending on how they performed. (It collapsed spectacularly in March 2021, taking £90 million—more than $100 million—of people’s money with it.) With restrictions on gambling advertising in sport being mooted in the British parliament, a tidal wave of crypto firms are ready to rush in and fill the space.
via Wired https://www.wired.com
August 6, 2022 at 04:04AM