Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, have been drawing much attention in various sectors in recent years. The sporting industry is now fully embracing NFTs as a way to improve the fan experience for followers of teams and competitions.
What is an NFT?
NFTs are non-fungible tokens in that they cannot be exchanged. While a 20-dollar note could be broken down into a 10-dollar bill, a 5 bill and 5 coins, an NFT is completely unique and cannot be converted.
Sports teams and competitions have recently taken to providing exclusive access to NFTs to fans. They are part of an explosion in the collectible tokens that takes in the whole of culture and entertainment.
NFTs work as proof of ownership of a particular item. In the case of artworks, or sports collectibles, the NFT allows the owner to view, digitally display and trade the item.
Soccer teams using NFTs
One of the biggest soccer teams in the world, the Italian club AC Milan recently launched an NFT campaign.
Working with a fan rewards and engagement app, the club announced 100 NFTs to act as ‘loyalty tools’. The club sees the NFTs as ways for fans to access exclusive rewards and experiences.
Other club partners of the rewards app, including AS Roma, Everton, Paris St. Germain and Arsenal are also expected to follow suit with NFT rewards packages of their own.
The ex-England international soccer stars John Terry and Wayne Rooney have also recently been drawing further attention to NFTs.
Rooney announced a partnership that offers exclusive items to fans operating via a form of cryptocurrency.
How do fans interact with NFTs?
Other sports entertainment companies are also getting into the exciting business of NFTs. For example, the DraftKings NFT marketplace is a place where sports fans can find exclusive NFTs from some of the biggest names in sports.
Easy to use and process, the latest collections include autographs from famous sporting stars. Fans can collect them and view them in their digital portfolio.
NFTs in other sports
The exciting prospects of NFTs have also been picked up by other sports. In the UK, the professional Rugby League club Warrington Wolves is also making NFTs available.
The new collection features digital artwork of England international and Wolves half-back George Williams in retro old trading card style.
The collection is limited to seven tokens and each one features a unique video message from the player plus a physical shirt signed by the player. The club believes the move into digital NFTs provides fans with a new way to get involved with the club.
NFTs and the pleasure of collecting
A prominent part of the success of NFTs is based on the idea of old card collections. In the past, collecting cards and stickers of famous players and trying to complete a team collection – or the entire league – was a fun way for fans to connect with their team. Fans could present them in collector’s albums to keep all of the stickers together.
Today, this retro appeal has been updated into the digital sphere, but the essential idea is still the same. Bringing out the joy of collecting and trying to completer a series is still the same.
The main difference in the new NFT collections is the idea of exclusivity and limited runs. While doubles of cards and stickers used to get swapped in school playgrounds in times past, today there is more of a unique aspect attached to each series.
NFTs and the Blockchain
NFTs are digital assets and as such, they need to be stored somewhere. This is usually done on a blockchain, in a similar way to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. But whereas cryptocurrencies can be traded or exchanged – they are fungible – NFTs cannot.
NFT have a digital structure that makes it impossible for the token to be broken down. NFTs also offer exclusive ownership rights. The item that the token represents can only be owned by one individual. The workings of the blockchain make the ownership completely secure and validated.
The public ledger of the blockchain is proof of who owns what. The records on the blockchain cannot be forged or invalidated because they are maintained by thousands of international computers.
The future of NFTs and sport
It looks as though NFTs and sport will be closely linked for some time to come. Business is certainly booming at the moment: earlier this year weekly sales of sport NFTs in the US rose to $138 million.
As teams and leagues begin to offer fans more unique experiences, the value of NFTs will continue to rise.
The NBA recently offered two tickets to a game to fans who could produce 12 unique NFTs. As the big leagues and competitions get more involved with the workings of NFT to provide one-of-a-kind deals, NFTs are sure to remain popular.
While it is tough to predict how the market will look in future years, for now, the buzz surrounding NFTs looks set to continue.

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