National League in discussions over NFT partner
England’s National League is in discussions regarding an official non-fungible token (NFT) partner, with clubs expected to tweet about the token scheme twice a month, The Athletic can reveal.The plans, which have not yet been confirmed, were discussed at the organisation’s annual dinner last week at Celtic Manor near Newport in Wales.NFTs have been discussed as a potential new revenue stream for a league which is starved for cash compared to the country’s professional divisions.As part of the proposed arrangement, clubs would be expected to regularly post about the tokens on social media.Non-fungible tokens are a form of digital asset based on blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.To their advocates, they are the modern iteration of trading merchandise like stickers or clothing, but to detractors, they are enriching the already wealthy to the detriment of sports fans exposed to unregulated financial speculation.The National League sits below the English Football League and is formed of the fifth tier of English football as well as the sixth which is split into north and south divisions.The National League has emerged through the pandemic in rude health, attracting an aggregate attendance of 2.5 million across its three divisions in 2021-22. Six National League clubs – Wrexham, Stockport County, Notts County, Chesterfield, Southend United and Grimsby Town – all attracted average gates of over 5,000.The need to increase revenue streams remains, however, with central funding from the Premier League markedly reduced for clubs outside of the English Football League (EFL).The National League has an existing commercial deal with Vanarama, lead sponsors since 2014, through until the 2024-25 season. That was reported to be worth £4 million, or £1 million per season, when signed in March 2021.The issue of cryptocurrency in sport is also highly controversial, from digital “fan token” sold by the company Socios, to clubs like Chelsea and Roma carrying the logos of companies in the sector which few had heard of before they signed huge sponsorship deals.Cryptocurrency and NFT markets have been plunging in recent weeks, while multiple NFT projects promoted by football stars like Paul Pogba, Andrew Robertson and John Terry have attracted criticism after they swiftly plunged in value after being announced to much fanfare.(Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images)
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