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Sotheby’s sports NFT auctions may rise after Liverpool launch

By Monte Stewart


Updated

Exterior of a Sotheby's auction house
Sotheby’s could auction more sports NFTs after auctioning digital tokens tied to Liverpool FC - Photo: Voxel Architects

Sotheby’s could auction more sports-related non-fungible tokens (NFTs) after launching a new partnership with English Premier League football club Liverpool FC.

The two-century-old auction house and the Liverpool soccer team worked on the club’s NFTs Collection last week. This marks the first time that two-century-old Sotheby’s has formed a partnership with a sports team on an NFT programme.

NFTs will be auctioned via the Sotheby’s Metaverse auction platform, which began operating in 2021.

“This NFT project is truly a first-of-its-kind for Sotheby’s Metaverse, and our hope with this collaboration is that it could chart a path forward for the future possibilities of NFTs, expanding beyond art and collectibles and giving them utility in a new kind of fan community,” said Sebastian Fahey, Sotheby’s managing director for EMEA and executive lead for Sotheby’s Metaverse.

“LFC Heroes Club is a project that will undoubtedly help set the tone for how we can collaborate across a variety of different brands and franchises in the future.”

Sebastian FaheySebastian Fahey with Sotheby's - Photo: Southeby's

Liverpool launched its first NFT collection: the LFC Heroes Club. Fans can join the LFC Heroes Club by purchasing an NFT in the Hero limited edition sale or the Legendary one-of-a-kind auction. Both events run from Wednesday to Friday.

Foundation to receive funds

Liverpool will donate 50% of its Legendary auction proceeds, 10% of Hero sale proceeds, and 10% of resale royalties on future sales to the LFC Foundation.

Fahey said Sotheby’s chose to work with the Reds because many employees are football fans and there is a love for Liverpool across the company.

“Beyond just the game, we love the sense of community that comes with football, which tallies closely with the whole ethos of NFTs and the communities around them,” said Fahey. “With Liverpool’s extraordinary community spirit, it’s a real dream to work with them and to be able to bring our NFT capabilities to bear to help them raise funds for the LFC Foundation.

“We are always looking to actively engage with brands and creators in new ways, so it was really exciting to discover that LFC was also looking for a partner that could not only support the sale as a marketplace, but someone to help architect the creative and community elements of the sale.”

Hero NFTs will sell for $75 (£56) each and feature one Liverpool player or manager with each displaying what Sotheby’s calls a unique combination of traits created with a generative art algorithm. Limited Edition Hero NFTs feature one LFC player or manager, each with a unique combination of traits.

The Legendary edition will comprise 24 NFTs to be auctioned as individual lots and sold to the highest bidders. These NFTs will display Liverpool team members in their most powerful mode.

LFC NFT purchasers will gain access to a fan community forum, for what Sotheby’s said are unique experiences involving the team, virtual hangouts, competition, LFC retail discounts, and other benefits.

By launching its own dedicated NFT marketplace, Sotheby’s has created a central place to feature its “thoughtfully curated” sales of digital art where the company has hosted thematic sales or focussed a sale around a single artist or creator, said Fahey.

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The first NFT sale was a collaboration with the digital artist Pak, and Sotheby’s has held a flagship Natively Digital sale series around concepts and creations.

Expanding beyond art

“We’ve also explored how NFTs can be expanded outside digital art, the LFC collaboration being the latest and most ambitious example,” said Fahey. “But we also sold the original source code to the world wide web last summer, which marked a significant evolution in how NFTs can be used to acquire digital and technological artifacts.

“We’ve also only just begun to explore NFTs and luxury objects, and recently held several sales of original artwork and NFTs by the legendary watch designer Gerald Genta.”

Sotheby’s has also worked with digital artists and creators which the auction house considers to be at the forefront of the NFT movement, including Yuga Labs, the creator of the popular Apecoin NFT series, Larva Labs, and London-based artist Robert Alice, the namesake of a studio that aims to promote blockchain culture within visual arts. Fahey said Sotheby’s worked with Alice on the first every intelligent NFT (iNFT).

Citing Alethea AI, Fintech magazine reported that an iNFT has both interactive and animation capabilities.

$100m in sales

In less than a year, said Fahey, Sotheby’s has achieved $100m in NFT sales. The company is seeing NFT demand in every category of its business, and 80% of NFT bidders are new customers.

“The NFT market is still incredibly new, even though it has grown exponentially over a very short amount of time,” he said. “But, taking into account the depth of interest around the world and the number of new collectors we continually see across our sales, the long-term potential for the NFT market is very promising, especially when considering the new ways in which NFT can be applied to new categories like music, fashion, entertainment, and much more.”

Boom or bust?

Marc Falzon, an economic documentarian who focusses on cryptocurrencies, called the LFC Heroes programme fun and exciting and predicted that it will do well. But he thinks time will run out on the popularity of NFTs.

“NFTs are pretty robust technology and the way it’s being used right now is probably the least interesting way it possibly could be used,” said Falzon in an interview with Capital.com.

“Right now, though, most of it is being used to put links of JPEGs online, which is fine, but there’s going to be a bubble pop soon for all of that stuff.”

Falzon said an NFT is “literally a hyperlink to an image that is hosted somewhere” and the image is in danger of being lost if a website goes down. He likened the NFT market to the sport trading card market of the 1990s, but said the difference is that the cards exist, and predicted the NFT sector will get diluted.

“I’m sure that soccer team will make their money,” he said. “But what happens when every soccer team, and every (American) football team, and every ice hockey team wants to do their own NFTs? All of this stuff is flags that we have a bubble burst coming.”

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CFDs are leveraged products, which means that you only need to deposit a percentage of the full value of the CFD trade in order to open a position. But with traditional trading, you buy the assets for the full amount. In the UK, there is no stamp duty on CFD trading, but there is when you buy stocks, for example.
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