In fantasy sports, NFT soccer cards’ star rises

When Alistair Rathbone makes his regular morning cup of coffee and flicks on the TV, the morning silence isn’t filled by morning TV stations but instead the distant chants of Belgian soccer fans willing on their side or even the drums that echo from the crowd during J-League fixtures.

The local Gold Coast resident will be watching – no matter the league and no matter the ridiculous time it reaches our screens.

Why? Three words: NFT Soccer Cards.

French owned fantasy sports and NFT trading platform Sorare has seen rapid growth since launching in 2019.

The company offers soccer fans the chance to buy and own a digital copy of their favourite players, with real-life performances on the pitch potentially giving them the chance to make money by acquiring more cards as rewards.

NFTs [Non-Fungible Tokens] are an opportunity for fans (as managers) to own a digital card on the blockchain, with no one able to own that particular card anywhere in the world unless they decide to sell.

The platform uses the cryptocurrency of Ethereum so managers can trade, buy and sell to people around the world using their digital wallets.

As managers win new cards they can sell these on for a profit or use them to bring a better scorer into their squads.

Sorare’s worldwide coverage is shining a light on smaller leagues that even the most diehard soccer fan probably hasn’t paid much attention too.

Alistair is the co-host of Sorare and MLS podcast ‘The Champ America Podcast’.

He’s been a large presence in the community over the past few years, and now boasts a gallery of NFTs valued at around $60,000.

“When entrepreneur Gary Vee who is big leading voice in the NF and crypto world mentioned Sorare and that he was investing pretty heavily and buying a Kylian MBappe and Joao Felix card, I saw it as a great opportunity,” he says.

“I was already interested in NFT’s as a bit of investment vehicle and I also just thought that the technology, especially with Sorare, was really cool.”

Like many pioneers on the platform, Rathbone found himself making errors in his early days, as all users had to try and come to terms with the technology and the most optimal strategy for buying and selling the NFTs.

“I kind of had the idea that I was going to be like him [Vee] and pick up these young superstars and get ahead of everyone else but I soon realised I didn’t know anything about global football and there were so many other leagues that I needed to discover,” he says.

“You’re essentially investing in these players that you can use in this game but also trading with other people and because you own that card you can actually make profit with a talented player that is undervalued and sell them on when they’re on fire.”

Alistair says the platform’s ability to combine his love of fantasy sports, passion for cryptocurrency and soccer all into one product got him hooked from the start.

“It takes that element of fantasy that I love and makes it something you have complete control over it and are actually completely investing in it,” he said.

He says one of the most rewarding elements of the platforms is the ability to closely follow small foreign leagues that normally don’t receive much attention from the regular soccer fan.

“I think Sorare is doing wonders for the MLS and a lot of other minor leagues around the world as people suddenly have invested interest in all these players and teams and especially with the world cup, the MLS is only going to gain in popularity on the platform,” he says.

“If you had told me two years ago that I would be sitting down at 5am to watch a Portland Timbers game in the MLS wearing my Sebastian Blanco jersey, I simply wouldn’t have believed you.”

As for the platform’s future ambitions, Alistair says it has great potential, with the numbers of users and money being invested onto the platform growing at an incredible rate since its launch in 2019.

“If we’re thinking real blue sky in terms of where I see it going, I think it’s not only going to take over fantasy sports but gambling as well because with Sorare, you can invest in these players and can watch them week in week out and that creates that excitement of gambling that people are attracted to but without that risk, without that risk of losing your stake every weekend,” he says.

As the platform continues to grow, he believes that the demand for these cards are going to increase and grow in value, making those early mornings tuning into the Belgian league all worth it.