The new decade has kicked off with blockchain technology finally being utilized in real case scenarios in the world of sports. Many blockchain proponents are enthusiastic about the wide variety of potential use cases, but real-life working examples are often hard to come by.

The potential of the technology to underpin a variety of systems within the sports sector has long been discussed, but just two months into the new year, there have already been several prominent use cases where blockchain technology is being used to improve offerings to fans.

From the football-mad continent of Europe to the world of the NFL and Major League Baseball, blockchain-based applications are being used to improve ticketing, merchandising and interactions between audiences and sports teams and organizations.

Tickets to the UEFA EURO on blockchain

Every four years, the best international football teams in Europe battle it out in the UEFA European Championship, more commonly known as the Euros to football fans. The 16th edition of the tournament will be hosted by 12 cities across the continent between June and July. The best 24 teams that progress through the qualifiers will battle it out to be crowned the kings of European football.

Ticketing is one of the most challenging aspects for the tournament’s organizers, with over 28 million ticket requests for the 2020 showpiece across 200 countries.

For the first time ever, UEFA has turned to a blockchain-powered mobile app to provide a contemporary ticketing solution for fans. UEFA aims to supply and deliver 1 million tickets through the Euro 2020 app.

There are some benefits to the app-based ticketing system. Firstly, it will rule out the possibility of replicating tickets. Fans won’t need to visit ticketing offices either, they’ll simply have to turn on WiFi on their smartphones when they arrive at the stadium, which will then activate their ticket QR codes and allow entry. The move also eliminates paper waste.

The primary benefit of an app-based ticketing system is the ease of distribution across the sheer number of countries. Ultimately, UEFA’s move to use blockchain technology to power its ticketing operation is a major boon for the industry. Given that football is the most popular sport in the world, the adoption of the technology could set a trend for other service providers to follow.

Vote on club matters with Socios

Blockchain-powered fan engagement platform Socios seems to be setting the tone for adoption in the sporting world. As previously reported, the Socios platform allows sports organizations and teams to launch their own tokens that can be used for a variety of activities on the platform. Users can participate in votes for club decisions as well as use tokens to access content and memorabilia.

The platform has collaborated with a number of the world’s biggest football clubs over the last few years — such as Barcelona, Juventus, Paris-Saint Germain, Galatasaray, Atletico Madrid and A.S. Roma among others.

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Socios welcomed Barcelona to its platform in February 2020, just a week before announcing its move into the American sports market. Chiliz, the fintech platform that created Socios, has also teamed up with marketing agency Lagardere Sports and Entertainment.

The agency has a major foothold in the United States, and Chiliz is hoping to onboard a number of new teams and organizations to the Socios platforms through Lagardere. Teams involved in the NFL and Major League Baseball are obvious targets.

Fantasy football powered by digital trading cards

A number of football teams have also been licensed in the digital collectibles space in a partnership with blockchain platform Sorare, which was announced in February 2020. The platform offers fans blockchain-based player trading cards that are used to play a five-card fantasy football game. The player cards earn points in relation to their actual player’s performance in real-life games.

Cards are tiered, with the rarest cards guaranteed digital scarcity through blockchain technology. Cards can also be transferred to the Ethereum blockchain. According to the platform’s website, over 38 clubs have been officially licensed.

The Sacramento Kings lead the way in blockchain-based offerings

A couple of NBA teams have welcomed the cryptocurrency sector by accepting payments in Bitcoin (BTC) over the past few years.

The Sacramento Kings and the Dallas Mavericks have allowed fans to purchase tickets and merchandise using Bitcoin. The Kings have done so since 2014, while the Mavericks began accepting the cryptocurrency in 2019. 

The Sacramento Kings are likely the most innovative blockchain adopters in the sporting world. The organization claims to be one of the world’s most technologically advanced sporting brands. The Golden 1 Center stadium’s roof is covered in solar panels, boasts ridiculously fast WiFi for fans, and has a cryptocurrency mining operation running in its data center — the proceedings from which are donated to local charities. 

If that is not impressive enough, the Kings also offer fans exclusive memorabilia and other items on a couple of blockchain-based platforms. In 2019, they launched crypto-collectibles powered by the Ethereum-based platform CryptoKaiju.

Following that, the Kings unveiled a new offering in January 2020 in collaboration with Consensys that allows fans to bid for in-game sports gear worn by Kings players during live games through a mobile-based app. 

There’s a massive market for authentic, in-game items, but the authenticity of auctioned items has always been a pitfall. The app provides a solution to this problem by opening an auction marketplace that provides authentic game-worn items in real-time.

Lancashire Cricket Club looks to blockchain for tech-savvy ticketing

Following in the footsteps of UEFA, English county cricket club Lancashire announced that it would begin selling tickets through blockchain-based ticketing platform TIXnGO at the beginning of 2020.

The club will sell tickets to both local and international matches at Old Trafford cricket ground after testing out the platform in 2019. As more supporters have started to buy tickets online, the club is using the blockchain-based platform to combat ticket fraud and improve data on ticket distribution. 

The technology also makes it far easier for people to resell or transfer tickets to other supporters. Lancashire’s move is thought to be a first in the world of cricket and can be counted as another sports organization beginning to harness the advantages of blockchain-powered technology.

Actual use cases speak volumes for adoption

It is encouraging to see a number of organizations actively using blockchain technology to improve their offerings to sports fans. Whether it’s having access to exclusive content and memorabilia or knowing that the purchased tickets are authentically validated, sport enthusiasts are slowly being introduced to blockchain-based solutions even if they are not aware of it.