LONDON — Spain’s top football league La Liga said on Thursday it will offer NFTs for all its players, marking the latest foray into cryptocurrencies from a major sports organization.
NFTs, or non-replaceable tokens, are unique digital assets designed to certify ownership of a virtual item, such as rare art or trading cards, on the blockchain. They cannot be exchanged like-for-like with each other, unlike bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
La Liga partners with French start-up Sorare to launch its NFTs. Sorare’s platform allows users to trade digital player cards and manage teams of five in a number of fantasy football tournaments.
Sorare said it had agreed a long-term, exclusive licensing deal with La Liga, which will see top players including Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, Real Madrid’s Vinícius Júnior and FC Barcelona’s Pedri added to the platform.
“Today is a huge milestone for us as it marks the first top five league to join the platform,” Nicolas Julia, CEO and co-founder of Sorare, told CNBC.
La Liga clubs receive royalties on sales and Sorare has paid a minimum guarantee to ensure exclusivity, the company said.
Sports industry explores crypto
La Liga is one of the many sports associations jumping into the world of crypto. For example, the National Basketball Association licenses game highlights for a collecting platform called NBA Top Shot, which was developed by the blockhain startup Dapper Labs.
In the football world, Manchester City has dropped two collections of NFTs. Meanwhile, a number of clubs have launched so-called fan tokens that allow holders to vote on mostly minor club decisions and receive certain benefits.
Last month, it was revealed that part of Lionel Messi’s welcome pack at Paris Saint-Germain included the French club’s fantoken, which was developed with cryptocurrency firm Socios.com.
Sales of NFTs have exploded 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 verifiable scarcity and ownership of digital media, which can be widely reproduced and distributed thanks to the free availability of content on the Internet.
Critics, however, view the trend as a potential bubble in a market known for highly speculative investing. NFTs have also led to a number of scams, in which a fake Banksy collectible was sold for more than $300,000 through an apparent hack on the artist’s website.
Sorare says it has processed more than $130 million in sales through its platform since early 2021 and expects to process more than $200 million by the end of the year. The platform has over 500,000 registered users in total.
Sorare hopes to sign each of the top 20 football leagues in the world by the end of 2022.
Founded in 2018, the start-up is reportedly gearing up for a $530 million funding round, which Insider estimates would yield a valuation of at least $3.8 billion. Sorare declined to comment on the report.