Sports and blockchain;
Opportunities, threats, and partnership strategies yet to be defined

Blockchain. Cryptocurrencies. NFT. Fan token. Here are four terms that have entered into the mainstream, in what is globally seen as a historic economic/technological turning point. But how useful are these technologies? And how could the sports ecosystem benefit from them?

Digital technology is impacting consumer habits. Several innovations such as connected objects, virtual reality, and data analytics are today unavoidable. These innovations are new growth drivers for the sports industry. Among them, blockchain (a digital storage and information transmission technology based on 4 main characteristics: decentralized, shared, transparent, and secure) is becoming more and more salient, particularly because of cryptocurrencies, the virtual currency that can be exchanged from peer to peer without a trusted third party. “The notion of network or community behind a blockchain is essential since it is the network that will ensure the veracity and authenticity of the information in the register. In the blockchain, all the information that the network authenticates as correct is recorded on a database that is shared and secured between all members.” [1]

Sports organizations and cryptocurrencies operators: A spectacular increase in partnerships

In the sports ecosystem, we can therefore imagine a range of possible effects of blockchain: It could bring about mass coordination between players thanks to decentralization. It could also secure data and make it transparent. Data secured by blockchain technology can involve data provided by the fans about their consumer preferences and habits. This gives the sports organizations the possibility to enhance the fan-experience by providing customized marketing offers. These data can also be about ticketing: The immutability of data on the blockchain eliminates, in this respect, any possibility of counterfeiting. A further type of data secured by blockchain is athletes’ health data: “By providing useful insights and actionable data to their respective teams and organizations, athletes can benefit from blockchain-based identities. This enables sensitive medical and performance data to be tokenized on the blockchain in a trustless way. […] Data regarding the health, fitness, medical status, and performance of a player can be pivotal in player transfer markets. This information often informs decisions during transfer windows for team-based sports and can make or break a deal.“ [2]

In general terms, “sports as an industry has realized the potential that blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFT technologies can bring to further monetize fan engagement, attract sponsors and engage a global market.” [3] In this respect, a strong trend of partnerships between sports organizations and cryptocurrency operators can already be seen.

After the NBA, the NFL, and Formula 1, European clubs are attracting cryptocurrency operators, who see in them excellent vectors of visibility, with a global audience. Over 75 partnership between fan token and cryptocurrency exchange operators, and sports organizations have been launched in 2021. Tifosy Capital & Advisory states that football and basketball clubs accounted for 65% of all fan token and crypto partnerships launched since 2018. « Amongst the most eye-catching deals of the year was the 20-year, $618m agreement between and entertainment group AEG to rebrand the Staples Center from December 25th this year. More partnerships were launched in Q4 of 2021 than during the three years from 2018 to 2020, as the growth of crypto investing and the rollout of fan tokens and NFT exchanges continue apace. With further partnerships already announced […], significant further developments in the space are expected for 2022 » [4]. In football, for example, 17 of the 20 Premier League’s clubs, are partners with some of this sector’s companies. In France, the platform signed, in last September, a sponsorship agreement with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

Fan Tokens and NFTs: established but volatile crypto-assets

The interests of crypto firms and the football industry converge. Clubs have "clearly identified the opportunities resulting from the withdrawal of sports betting operators, whose sponsorship is gradually framed, or even banned in the major European leagues.” [5]

Concerning fan tokens, launched on a primary market, they can then be traded on a secondary market, where they can be resold in cryptocurrencies or in traditional currencies. has been issuing the "$PSG Fan Token" since 2020, which puts PSG at the top of the football clubs in this field. The PSG token allows "to choose the message that is displayed on the wall of the locker room, to vote for the goal of the season, or to designate the winners of the end of season awards", the club explains [6]. It is a way to enrich the fan experience and thus build loyalty and engage fans.

Other types of cryptos that are gaining momentum in the sports ecosystem are NFTs. They are non-fungible tokens that usually represents a specific digital object. In other words, it is a certificate of ownership registered on a blockchain. As such, each NFT has unique characteristics, including the date of its creation, its owner, or the object it represents. Also, the token is indivisible and cannot be exchanged for another "non-fungible". In football, “NFT and fantasy league platform Sorare ended 2021 with over $165m in sales volume. The 2021 average sale price of a Sorare NFT ($199) was more than three times higher than an NBA Top Shot ($59.5), and the record sale stands at $290k paid for a Cristiano Ronaldo card in March 2021. Sorare has officially licensed 225 football clubs, 150 of which are in Europe.” [4]

What about regulation?

Beyond all the economic perspectives that blockchain offers to the sports ecosystem, there are several concerns related to the nature of its products and practices. The first concern is the highly speculative nature of NFTs and fan tokens, whose prices fluctuate sharply in relation to the clubs’ results and news. “The “$PSG” tokens surged in value in the days before Messi’s free-agent move […] was confirmed, making real cash for savvy traders. Posts in social media channels speculated that the price would “explode” after the announcement. Less widely reported was what happened once the deal was done: the tokens plunged in value.” [7] Launched at €2, the PSG token peaked at €42.20 the day after Messi's transfer last August, but was only worth €15 today. As most of the trading flows are activated by speculators seeking short-term profits, fan tokens can be very volatile [7]. This speculative tendency is all the more problematic as tokens are often exchanged through cryptocurrencies, which are themselves very volatile.

The second concern is the concentration of assets in the hands of a few dominant players. As for Sorare, an investigation led by The Athletic has shown that a few large traders are accumulating the best cards. “The market is all the more unequal because it tolerates a mix of roles. Some are both investors in the company and participants in the game.” [5] A further reason for concern is the potential addiction of fans. Like sports betting, trading in sports cryptocurrencies exposes individuals to the risk of addiction and loss. “Faced with the emergence of these risks, regulatory authorities and stakeholders in the world of football are for the moment absent. This market is not regulated at all, in accordance with the very principle of cryptos […]. There are no regulatory authorities, nor consumer protection against extreme hazards, specific to financial investments, to which is added the exposure to fraud.” [4] On the side of governments, attitudes are divided between a wait-and-see attitude and a sense of urgency that has not yet resulted in legislation.


In spite of the explosion of interest in cryptocurrencies, sports organizations and especially clubs should keep the risks that this new technology could represent in mind. “The value of crypto-assets continues to be volatile and despite the phenomenal growth, the legal and regulatory landscape is still uncertain. The lack of stability in this area will require sports businesses to adopt arrangements that hedge a contingency to save money in the event that valuations fluctuate.” [3] This being said, the emergence of these new growth levers for the sports industry remains globally more promising than threatening.


[1] PwC Sports & Mega Events. 2019. Comment la Blockchain et ses applications peuvent permettre de développer l’industrie du sport ?

[2] Academy Moralis. 03/12/2021. Blockchain Use Cases in the Sports and eSports Industry.

[3] Squire Patton Boggs. March 22, 2021. The Future of Sports – Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technology.
Sports Shorts.

[4] Tifosy Capital & Advisory. 2022. Blockchain's entry into sport.

[5] Latta, J. 02/07/2022. Le football, nouveau terrain de jeu des cryptomonnaies. Alternatives économiques.

[6] PSG Official communication. 08/12/2022. Le Paris Saint-Germain conclut la première signature de joueur incluant des fans tokens.

[7] D'Urso, J. 11/27/2021. Sorare: ‘An unregulated timebomb’ or a fantasy game that will revolutionize football?
The Athletic.

[8] Tidy, J., Lane, E. 12/10/2021. Football fans spending millions on club crypto-tokens. BBC.