LONDON – Spain’s top football league, La Liga, said Thursday that it will offer NFTs to all of its players, marking the latest foray into cryptocurrencies by a major sports organization.
NFTs or non-fungible tokens are unique digital assets that are intended to certify the possession of a virtual object, such as rare art or trading cards, in the blockchain. In contrast to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they cannot be exchanged with one another.
La Liga is partnering with French startup Sorare to bring its NFTs to market. Sorare’s platform allows users to trade digital player cards and manage teams of five in a range of fantasy football tournaments.
Sorare said it has entered into a long-term, exclusive licensing agreement with La Liga that will add top players like Antoine Griezmann from Atlético Madrid, Vinícius Júnior from Real Madrid and Pedri from FC Barcelona to its platform.
“Today is a big milestone for us as it will be the first top 5 league to join the platform,” Nicolas Julia, CEO and co-founder of Sorare, told CNBC.
La Liga clubs receive a royalty on the sale and Sorare has paid a minimum guarantee to ensure exclusivity, the company said.
Sports industry explores crypto
La Liga is one of many sports associations entering the cryptocurrency world. The National Basketball Association, for example, licenses game highlights for a collecting platform called NBA Top Shot, which was developed by the blockchain start-up Dapper Labs.
In the world of football, Manchester City has released two collections of NFTs. In the meantime, a number of clubs have introduced so-called fan tokens, which enable the holders to vote on mostly smaller club decisions and to receive certain discounts.
Last month it was revealed that part of Lionel Messi’s welcome package at Paris Saint-Germain included the French club’s fan token, developed with cryptocurrency firm Socios.com.
Sales of NFTs are booming this year. A piece by digital artist Beeple sold for nearly $ 70 million in March, while Visa recently bought a crypto collectible called CryptoPunk for nearly $ 150,000 in Ethereum.
Proponents of NFTs say they are a way to achieve a demonstrable scarcity and ownership of digital media that can be reproduced and distributed on a large scale thanks to the free availability of content on the Internet.
However, critics see the trend as a potential bubble in a market known for highly speculative investing. NFTs have also sparked a series of scams, with a counterfeit Banksy collectible selling for more than $ 300,000 through an apparent hack on the artist’s website.
Sorare says it has processed more than $ 130 million in revenue through its platform since early 2021 and is expected to process over $ 200 million by the end of the year. In total, the platform has more than 500,000 registered users.
Sorare hopes to sign each of the top 20 football leagues in the world by the end of 2022.
Founded in 2018, the startup is reportedly gearing up for a $ 530 million funding round, which, according to Insider, would reach a valuation of at least $ 3.8 billion. Sorare declined to comment on the report.