Five clubs of the EFL Championship have struck deals with Sorare, as the NFT-based fantasy sports platform looks to further strengthen its ties to professional football.
Millwall, Coventry City, Norwich City, Watford and Burnley have all reached agreements with the company to produce digital trading cards of their players, in line with its plans to bolster links with European second division leagues.
The deals mark Sorare’s entry into the EFL – the second, third and fourth tiers of the English football system – following partnerships with Premier League team Liverpool and Italy’s top-flight league Serie A, as well as the NBA in the US.
“One of the things our users enjoy most about Sorare is the chance it gives them to act as a talent scout, identifying the next breakthrough stars before anyone else,” said Michael Meltzer, Sorare’s Head of Business Development.
“Many of today’s best players began their careers outside the top five leagues, and the EFL Championship is increasingly seen globally as a great source of emerging talent, so it’s important to us that our game reflects that.
“We’re delighted to bring the EFL Championship to Sorare for the first time with these partnerships and we look forward to announcing more clubs from the league in the coming months.”
Digital trading cards based on the players of the five English clubs will be made available on Sorare’s platform for purchase by fans, collectors and fantasy football players, and can also be traded with other users.
With a user base of over two million players, Sorare plans to launch a new competition centred around European second division football, branded as ‘Second Division Europe’.
The end goal is for the platform’s players to compete with cards from these leagues and enter them into its global tournaments.
Sorare’s debut in the Championship this week follows similar partnerships with Germany’s 2. Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 2 BKT and Spain’s LaLiga 2.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Sorare to offer Millwall fans an exciting new way to engage with their favourite players and to help their club connect even more with football fans from around the world,” remarked Andrew Stead, Millwall’s Head of Partnerships.
For Millwall and its four EFL rivals, there are three key objectives to the partnership with Sorare – namely fan engagement and revenue generation.
Lower league clubs in particular suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic due to loss of earnings from ticket sales, sponsorship and broadcast revenue, with many teams turning to emerging blockchain technology as a new revenue stream.
Additionally, the clubs have also outlined international fan engagement and connectivity as a goal, identifying Sorare’s two million global users as a means to this end.
Norwich City’s Commerical Director Sam Jeffery described the partnership as an ‘exciting milestone’ for the club, due to Sorare’s wide-reaching global customer base and partnerships with prominent leagues and clubs.
“The right strategic partnerships, carefully considered and with the right brands, are immensely important to our club and this is a significant one, and one we’re proud to enter,” Jeffery continued.
“It’s a new space we’re entering, harnessing new technology, engaging our fans in a different way, as well as broadening the global reach of our club. It’s extremely exciting and we look forward to a very successful collaboration.”
Gordon Kaye, Commercial Director at Burnley FC, added: “We are an ambitious football club, always on the lookout for ways we can harness new technologies to enhance fan experience, and this is a perfect opportunity.
“Sorare’s innovative fantasy game is a great example of how online football fandom is evolving, and we’re excited to partner together.”
Insider Analysis – As mentioned above, the pandemic and its aftermath has led to many clubs from top-flight to lower-tier leagues seeking new engagement and revenue opportunities. This has included emerging NFT technologies with Sorare emerging as one of the dominant players in this space. However, the rise in popularity of such platforms and products has not gone unnoticed by regulatory authorities.