A mix between Bitcoin and Panini: the wonderful world of digital (and very expensive) football tickets

250,000 euros for Cristiano Ronaldo. It seems like a bargain for football clubs, but is actually the cost of its digital variant. Online tickets from star players have become big business this year. An intriguing mix between Panini stickers and Bitcoins, which also benefits the Belgian federation. Welcome to the wonderful world of digital football tickets.

The music of the tearing paper bag. Then the released scent of freshly printed stickers. Then very slowly slide the 5 ‘treasures’ apart and discover which football players you have in your hands. Is it the missing ones you’ve been looking for for so long? Or dimes to trade with friends?

The above scene undoubtedly sounds familiar to many collectors of Panini stickers. Also this year many enthusiasts started collecting again to show off a complete European Championship album.

But in 2021, the world of collectible cards has a new player.

And it’s big business.

Sorare: Scarce Football Tickets Linked to Cryptocurrencies

The message from the Belgian Football Association disappeared almost silently between the folds due to the European Championship madness.

“The Red Devils have landed in Sorare! You can now collect, trade and play with the digital tickets of your favorite Belgian football stars.”

(read more below the tweet)

So-wát?

In the wonderful world of digital soccer collectible cards, Sorare currently the market leader with 400,000 users worldwide. The French company owns licenses for about 150 teams, including the Red Devils and all Belgian first division teams.

The game works like this: players can collect digital cards from football players and use them to build a team (of 5). Based on their performance in the real football world, you score points, which you can use to win cash prizes or new tickets in various competitions. Similar to a fantasy football game.

However, the number of tickets is not unlimited. There are 111 of each player per season: 100 ‘rares’, 10 ‘super rares’ and 1 ‘unique’. The higher the rarity, the more bonus points your players score. But above all: the higher the value.

And now comes the uniqueness of Sorare. The game is based on a blockchain technology, which means that the tickets have a proven scarcity – so they cannot be duplicated or removed.

Each card is an NFT, a unique digital item, to which a value is attached. With the cryptocurrency Ethereum (the second largest after Bitcoin), tickets can be bought and sold on a digital marketplace.

What is an NFT?

A non-fungible token or NFT for short is a digital certificate to prove that something is yours. It arose to assign a value to online creations.

In recent months, the first tweet ever sold for $2.5 million and a meme of ‘disaster girl’ for nearly $500,000.

250,000 euros for digital Ronaldo

The concept is currently a great success. The Parisian company has grown at a rapid pace in recent months – more than 50% per month. At the beginning of this year, Sorare raised more than 40 million euros in fresh capital from investors.

Top football players Antoine Griezmann and Gerard Piqué, among others, have already pumped part of their money into the platform. Just like ex-stars Rio Ferdinand, André Schürrle and Oliver Bierhoff.

“The last 12 months have been a blast,” said Brian O’Hagan, Growth Lead at the company. “In December 2019, we traded $35,000 worth of value on our platform. Last month it was 12 million euros.”

Top football player Gerard Pique has already invested in Sorare.

Sorare is clearly more than just a game. The prices of some digital football tickets on the platform almost made us fall back. A ‘super rare’ ticket from Kevin De Bruyne easily costs 25,000 euros – you can buy a very nice second-hand car with that.

The one-of-a-kind copy of Cristiano Ronaldo changed hands for – hold on – 250,000 euros. So far the most expensive ticket ever on the platform.

Ticket buyers speculate on a price increase of the players in question. Affected by their performance on the field. The trick is to spot talent early – then their price is still low – in the hope that they will break through later.

In the Sorare society, for example, rough diamond Jonathan David had been on the radar for a long time when he played at AA Gent. His ticket was coveted, because many ascribed a great future to him.

They were right: the Canadian went to Lille in France for a record amount and scored continuously. His first card is now worth a multiple of the original amount (see chart below).

The Evolution of Jonathan David’s Value

In the beginning you bought a ticket from Jonathan David for a few tens, now they change hands for about 4,500 euros.

So does the potential return of the Sorare tickets also make it an interesting product for investors? Erik Joly, chief economist at ABN AMRO, is rather sceptical.

“I would advise investors to be careful,” he emphasizes. “You can get a complete Panini book for a few hundred euros, but this is clearly different amounts on an unregulated market.”

What if you buy a player for 10,000 euros and he suddenly no longer performs? Or worse, he sustains a serious injury?

Erik Joly, chief economist ABN Amro

“I’m looking at it with amazement”, Joly continues. “What if you buy a player for 10,000 euros and he suddenly no longer performs? Or worse, he sustains a serious injury?”

“In addition, you also have to deal with the value of the crypto currency that is traded in, in this case Ethereum. It already made a huge trip up this year, but then went down just as smoothly. What the future holds for these and other cryptocurrencies can no man predict.”

There were also eager bids on Red Devils tickets during the European Championship.

American fans of Charleroi

Although not all Sorare users are out for money. For many it’s just fun. “Most play it for the fantasy aspect,” says O’Hagan. “Look, Generation Z consumes football in a completely different way than the previous ones. Our platform helps them do that. When you own a certain player’s ticket, you feel a certain connection.”

Mel, an avid player with a blog about Sorare, nods: “It costs a few hundred euros to really get started, but it does add another dimension when you watch football. I follow a lot of competitions much more intensive than before, like the Belgian one.”

“Like many others, I am now a fan of Hans Vanaken. Within the community he is called “The Lord” because he was one of the biggest points grabbers in the early days of the game.”

There are now fans of Charleroi in the United States and supporters of Beerschot in Taiwan. They wake up at 3am to see how their player is doing.

Brian O’Hagan

She was far from the only one who got to know the Belgian clubs better through the platform. “Because the Jupiler Pro League was the first competition, many people from our community have started following the matches,” said O’Hagan.

“There are now fans of Charleroi in the United States and supporters of Beerschot in Taiwan. They wake up at 3 am to follow how their player is doing. Did you know that Antoine Griezmann bought the ticket from Maarten Vandevoordt? He is a big fan of the Genk goalkeeper talent.”

Star player Antoine Griezmann paid 30,404 euros 2 months ago for Maarten Vandevoordt’s unique ticket this season.

Belgian pioneers

Our country plays a pioneering role when it comes to digital football tickets. The Jupiler Pro League was the first football league to partner with Sorare in 2018. Last month, the Football Association also joined. It makes Belgium the first country to which both the national team and the clubs are affiliated.

“In the beginning we scratched our heads,” laughs Manu Leroy, marketing director of the Belgian Football Association. “It was also a completely unknown world for us. A leap into a completely new concept.”

“However, it is part of our strategy to sell licenses to other companies in addition to major partners. That is the case with Sorare. They have the right to use the portraits of our players.”

It becomes interesting for our partners if a high value card changes hands several times.

Brian O’Hagan

Of course not free of charge. What do the Pro League and the Belgian Football Association earn from the deal with Sorare? Is it a new gold mine? “A base fee is paid to our partners,” explains O’Hagan. “In addition, they also receive a piece of the amount for every ticket sold on.”

“Suppose a Romelu Lukaku is sold for 100,000 euros. A 5% fee goes to Sorare, who transfers a part to the Belgian football association.

“Whether that involves large sums? (laughs) If a ticket is sold for a high price, you can perhaps have a good meal with the office staff. Although it will of course be interesting if it changes hands 10 more times afterwards.”

What will the future bring?

The sky seems to be the limit for Sorare. More than 140 clubs have now launched their digital football tickets on the platform: Liverpool, PSG, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Juventus… “Our ambition is to fully license the biggest 20 leagues in the world”, says O ‘Hagan. “And we want them to reach the 1 million user mark as soon as possible – now there are 400,000.”

But is it also a sustainable future for gold prospectors? “That remains to be seen,” emphasizes Joly. “It gets serious due to the presence of the football association, among others, but as an average football fan I wouldn’t trust it with crazy amounts.”

Unless Cristiano Ronaldo’s digital ticket is really worth that much to you, of course.

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