Paris September 23 2021: It’s a funding deal that leaves even the big transfer fees for top footballers looking like pocket change.
Sorare, a blockchain-based fantasy football game, has raised a $680m Series B round led by SoftBank, which values the three-year-old French company at $4.3bn. It is the biggest Series B round in Europe to date.
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It makes Sorare France’s highest-valued scaleup, bigger than insurtech Alan or carsharing company Blablacar. Oh the irony for Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged billions of euros to deeptech industries like quantum computing, that France’s biggest startup success is based on a fantasy sports game.
But the big funding round is actually not so surprising. Non-fungible tokens linked to football clubs and football players have become a big business, with thousands of football fans buying and selling the tokens on crypto exchanges.
Serious traders can make thousands of dollars from these trades, in much the same way a daytrader might from trading stocks or cryptocurrencies. A unique token for Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid forward, sold for $110,816.76 three months ago, according to data from Coinranking. A unique Cristiano Ronaldo token sold for $289,920 in March.
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The value of these kinds of tokens was underscored this summer when part of Lionel Messi’s $41m wage package with Paris Saint Germain came in the form of an undisclosed amount of PSG fan tokens, issued by Socios, a competitor to Sorare. PSG fan tokens were trading for just under $30 on Friday according to CoimMarketCap. With around 3.1m of them in circulation, this gives PSG a market value of $92.7m.
Sorare has emerged as one of the leaders in the market. It focuses on fantasy football games using these non-fungible player tokens. You can buy a line-up of player cards — for example PSG’s Kylian MBappe as a forward, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer for goal and so on — and “play” your fantasy football team in matches against others to win prizes paid in real cryptocurrenccy.
You can also buy and sell the player tokens as their value goes up and down. Pick up a token for a rookie player — like a 16-year-old Jude Bellingham playing his debut season at Birmingham City — cheaply and watch the value go up when he signs for Borussia Dortmund. Or conversely, watch the value of your token plummet as a player is injured.