Fan tokens from Manchester City to PSG disappoint as boom fades

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As soon as rumors started buzzing that soccer star Lionel Messi would transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in August, Miguel Schweizer decided to buy the French club’s fan token, $PSG, on a hunch that prices would spike. They did — but he didn’t hold the tokens for long.

He sold them a few days later, betting the rally would be short-lived. His trade proved correct: prices were down 34% a week later, and 73% from when the tokens were issued after four months.

“I would never keep them in my investment portfolio for the long term,” said Schweizer, 29, chief executive officer of Decrypto, a Buenos-Aires based exchange and wallet. “They’re trade opportunities.”

For many hopeful fans, soccer club tokens have proved a disappointment, with prices quickly losing steam within days. It’s now three years since fan tokens started trading in the main crypto exchanges, promising an alternative for clubs to gain financing and for fans to be closer to their favorite teams.

Both these options have yet to live up to expectation. Clubs that have issued tokens include the likes of Manchester City, Lazio, Porto, Santos, Barcelona, AC Milan and Trabzonspor. Some, like Arsenal, have raised as much as $5.5 million through fan tokens, though most transactions are closer to $2 million. That’s a fraction of these clubs’ expenses.

Analysts caution that demand for fan tokens quickly goes from euphoria to indifference. The main criticism they make is that these have few tangible benefits for the fans. The Juventus token, for example, allows fans to use the tokens to buy VIP tickets, while the PSG token was used to allow holders to vote on the design for the new team bus and club slogan.

“The problem with current fan tokens is the clubs do not actively promote them or the utility the tokens have”, said Oliver Bell, CEO and co-founder of XCAD Network, a company that makes tokens for content creators. “The people that are buying them are not necessarily fans of the clubs at all; the only buyers are crypto enthusiasts.”

Meanwhile, the market remains small. The market cap of the sports fan tokens is as high as $491 million and its daily traded volume is $241 million. The biggest 10 fan tokens have an average daily volume of $13 million, which is only 28% of the daily volume traded on average for the 364 coins listed on Binance, according to CoinMarketCap and Coingecko data.

The world’s largest fan token by market capitalization, Manchester City, has a market capitalization of $56 million and the daily traded volume is under $15 million, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. Its price is half of what it was issued for.

Room for Growth

Proponents of fan tokens say it’s too early to assess their success. These coins are not intended to be investment assets, but rather to provide a service, said Alexandre Dreyfus, founder and CEO of Socios.com, a company that partners with clubs to develop the tokens.

Socios.com has 57 fan token partners — ranging from soccer to Formula One — up from 20 a year ago, which Dreyfus says indicates growing interest.

“We’re seeing an uptick in interest from clubs in issuing fan tokens,” he said. “Fans will be able enjoy exclusive games and content and score points that they can redeem for official signed products, free tickets or VIP experiences.”

To promote their use, on April 7, Binance began offering Lazio fan token holders the opportunity to stake, a process that allows owners to earn passive income on the coins without having to sell them. The tokens are used to help validate transactions on the blockchain, with the rewards and fees divided among the participants and the exchange. Binance offered holders 8% of annualized returns when they keep the Lazio tokens locked for 30 days, or 15% if they keep them for 90 days.

Some say they still see a good investment opportunity, even amid low volumes that reflect the wider mood on crypto on high volatility. They point to certain tokens, like PSG’s or Barca’s, which have seen spikes of interest when there’s big news.

“When the market becomes more bullish, there we will see how the volumes traded in all tokens increase”, said Maximiliano Hinz, Latin America general director of Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange by traded volume, which has issued four fan tokens. ”It’s the free market that governs their prices.”

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