Sport and crypto a perfect match, or almost. While the worlds of football and cryptocurrency have become increasingly intertwined in the past year, critics turn up their noses at such a strong link between sport and an unregulated and volatile sector like cryptocurrency.
The latest step in this approach of football to the crypto universe took place last week, with the governing body of European football, UEFA, which announced a sponsorship agreement with Socios.com, a cryptocurrency company. which sells "fan tokens" that can only be purchased through its own blockchain called Chiliz. Socios fans tokens are digital assets that see their value fluctuate, like any cryptocurrency. Fan Token owners receive perks and can occasionally vote on minor club issues.
Football Supporters Europe said he was "appalled" by the UEFA agreement. "This is an incomprehensible move at a time when football needs protection from cryptocurrencies," he said in a statement.
This is all part of a trend that has seen various cryptocurrency companies and platforms invest heavily in professional football over the past couple of years. Seventeen of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League have at least one commercial agreement with a company in the crypto sector, with six, including Arsenal and Manchester City, already partners with Socios. Some, like Watford and Southampton, carry cryptocurrencies as their main sponsor on their jerseys. Watford also carries the Dogecoin logo - a "joking" cryptocurrency that was also backed by Elon Musk - as a sponsor on the shirt.
Socios has agreements with clubs and leagues across Europe and South America, while several other companies in the cryptocurrency sector have entered into major trade deals in countries such as Turkey, Italy and Argentina. Another strand of football's growing relationship with cryptocurrencies is the nonfungible token (NFT) sector, with national clubs and leagues developing their own digital assets - such as images or videos - to buy and sell. Several high-profile footballers, including PSG and Brazil star Neymar, have also started promoting digital assets.
And in Italy? 25% of Italians say they know sports-related crypto tokens and 10% of sports fans are interested in buying this cryptocurrency to support their favorite team, league or players. Thus emerges from the Nielsen Sports Fan Insights research according to which the spread of knowledge of tokens and NFTs is also to be attributed to the effectiveness of the growing number of sports sponsorship agreements signed by cryptocurrency or blockchain companies in the last two years. In fact, during the first three quarters of 2021 alone, over 200 million euros were invested in sports sponsorships by the top 10 crypto companies (source: Nielsen Sports SponsorGlobe). The two most popular types of digital assets in the industry are currently Fan Tokens and NFTs / digital collectibles. According to the survey, the level of interest on the part of sports fans in these two categories is very similar: 12% of respondents prefer Fan Tokens while 13% prefer NFTs / digital collectibles.
The crypto football boom has raised alarm, given wider concerns about the risks the largely unregulated sector poses to financial stability. Martin Calladine, an investigative reporter and author of "The Ugly Game", spoke of "a perfect storm" that led football to embrace cryptocurrencies, with the pandemic fueling both a dramatic increase in crypto trading and a crisis. of funding in professional football. Calladine also believes that the main purpose of so-called "fan engagement" services offered by companies like Socios is to encourage people to buy the company's cryptocurrency. "It is perfectly clear that most of these tokens are not held by club fans," he says. "And even when they're buying them, it's not because they want to express their loyalty or their sense of commitment. They are buying them because there is an opportunity to make a profit."
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