Web3 in sport: A brief history
Wikipedia will tell you that the term ‘Web3’ was first iterated by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, way back in 2014.
The chances are, if you’re here reading this in 2022, you’ll have a reasonable understanding of Web3.
For those that don’t, Web3 is an evolution of the ‘online’ we currently know, love (and sometimes hate…) and use every day — on our smartphones, laptops and, well, just about everywhere.
Web3 promises a wealth of advantages over the status quo that we currently put up with. Transparency, security, speed, privacy, decentralisation and, ultimately, power to rightsholders and creators.
As with any new technology, bad actors will — and have — taken advantage (more on that later), but when looking at the benefits of Web3 when it comes to sport, the advantages are obvious.
Corruption has long been an issue in sport. Whether it be the accusations levelled at FIFA regarding the selection of their World Cup host countries (and a lot more besides) or at the other end of the scale, the match-fixing that has been prominent in lower level sport such as non-league football, Challenger Series tennis or, just last week, top class snooker.
Google (and ChatGTP) tell us that the first ever Web3 sports project was REALFEVR — a token/NFT hybrid project, that is still going strong on the BNB chain.
We encourage you to DYOR (Do your own research) on REALFEVR, but if Google is correct, they laid the path for a growing movement when it comes to Web3 and sport.
In 2019, Sorare celebrated its official launch. Similar in concept to REALFEVR, Sorare went one step further and purchased the official IP rights from sports rightsholders — currently the NBA, MLB and 313 (and counting) football clubs from around the world, to be able to promote its fantasy sports games and Official NFTs globally.
As recently as November 2022, Sorare counts Lionel Messi, Serena Williams and Kylian Mbappe among its investors.
And, following its most recent funding round, Sorare announced a raise of $680m.
So why are investors attracted to Web3 in sport, in particular?
Fandom perhaps? Sport offers its own market conditions. Within Sorare’s Ethereum-based ecosystem, the performance of athletes — and not Bitcoin — rules the roost.
Winners — and losers — of Sorare’s fantasy sports games hold their own destiny. The value of the platform’s NFTs fluctuate according to on-field performance and off-field speculation.
Above all. Everything that happens on Sorare is visible on the Ethereum blockchain. Never before has a sports fantasy league been as transparent, nor sports collectibles been so validated.
Chiliz’ sports platform Socios.com took a slightly different approach when it also launched in 2019.
The strapline for Socios was “to bring fans closer to their clubs”, and their implementation of Web3 technology has achieved just that. Having initially launched alongside their Juventus fan token, Socios has now expanded its roster to accommodate more than 150 clubs across 25 different countries, and also counts organisations such as UEFA, UFC, PFL and Davis Cup tennis as partners.
The fusion of the trinity of Socios’ platform, football clubs and fans has proved to be beneficial to all parties, with clubs adding a new revenue stream at a time when others — such as lucrative partnerships with gambing brands — have been restricted due to legislative changes, particularly in Spain and Italy.
Sports fans have also reaped the rewards. Whether it’s trading tokens for tickets, winning competitions for signed merchandise or experiences or having the right to vote on matters such as their club’s next kit design, Socios has been true to its word in bringing fans closer to the teams they love.
Meanwhile, Chiliz — the parent token to all of the fan tokens available on the Socios platform — has grown exponentially over the course of the last three years, having provided more than $30m worth of revenue for partner clubs in its first full year of trading back in 2020. As of today, $CHZ boasts a fully diluted market cap of $1.2b and the Socios platform has more than 1.5m users globally.
The continued growth of Socios will be helped by their appointment of Lionel Messi as global ambassador, in a deal reported to be worth $20m. Messi, who cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time in last weekend’s FIFA World Cup final, was the subject of the first high-profile transfer to include a blockchain transaction, with the PSG forward receiving an undisclosed amount of $CHZ as part of his signing on fee.
For all of the success stories, there have been as many failures. Arguably, the most high profile of which being IQONIQ.
It’s important to highlight that IQONIQ’s website still promises the launch of its app in 2022 (again, DYOR), but it would be a monumental turnaround following defaulted sponsorship agreements with Real Sociedad (main shirt sponsor), AS Roma (sleeve sponsor), Crystal Palace (Sleeve Sponsor), McLaren F1 (logo was on the livery of the car), Marseille (sleeve sponsor) and many, many more besides.
IQONIQ’s native token $IQQ shot to an all time high of $0.25 when the project’s branding was decorating the likes of Selhurst Park and Sociedad’s new stadium in San Sebastian. Some three years on from the first failed promise to deliver its platform, $IQQ now stands at $0.0004 and has been de-listed from most exchanges, with CoinMarketCap now declaring the coin ‘untracked’.
IQONIQ is not alone in its failures. Sportemon Go, a sports NFT publisher with partners including Scottish football clubs Rangers and Hibernian, ceased trading earlier this year. Its token $SGO is now worth $0.0000000001. Elsewhere, David Beckham-fronted project DigitalBits reportedly owe €17m in missed partnership payments to Inter Milan, who are now actively — and publicly — seeking a new brand to appear on the club’s shirts.
Whilst the emergence of any new technology poses risks, Web3’s relationship with sport has largely been very healthy. Its continued success seems inevitable.
Built on the Solana blockchain, Blockasset exists to connect fans with their favourite athletes. Blockasset’s athlete token platform — due for release at the end of Q1 2023 — will raise the game for fan engagement in sport.
With an ever-growing roster of 40+ athletes, with a combined social media following of 135m+, World Champions such as Oleksandr Usyk, Leon Edwards and Alex Pereira, sporting superstars such as Khamzat Chimaev, and legends like Muhammad Ali, Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Rooney will all be brought closer to sports fans, with Blockasset users rewarded with exclusive content, experiences, memorabilia and merchandise.
Having already celebrated milestones, with four sold-out NFT drops, Blockasset has grown in notoriety with its behind the scenes athlete content amassing over 12.5m views on YouTube, and athlete performance wear partnership with Yelir creating mass brand awareness, particularly among MMA fans.
Blockasset’s upcoming athlete token platform will also bring further strength and utility to its native token, $BLOCK, in a similar fashion to how Socios fan tokens benefit $CHZ, but focused on individual athletes, rather than teams.
Whether its global brands such as Sony looking to push Manchester City into the Metaverse, the continued evolution of sports betting and fantasy sport, breakthroughs in eliminating fraudulent tickets or counterfeit merchandise, or a revolution for player transfer processes, Web3 will be at the centre of all innovation for sport from now on.
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