Fans Push Back as AFL Launches NFT Marketplace

April 21, 2022, 10:00 AM AEST - 1 month ago

In the same week that the Australian Football League (AFL) cracked down on players dissenting the on-field decisions of umpires, fans of the indigenous code have registered their own disapproval of the league’s recent move into the NFT space.

Earlier this month, the AFL announced a five-year partnership with Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands to bring both the men’s and women’s leagues into the metaverse. In a unique revenue-distribution deal, players stand to receive 20 percent of the spoils from the sale of NFTs associated with the sport, Australia’s most popular football code in terms of supporter numbers.

NFT Fatigue Seeps into Sports

Star English Premier League team Liverpool FC launched its own NFT collection earlier this month. It was a spectacular failure, with only 6 percent of the offering sold.

Providing further evidence of growing fatigue within the NFT space, AFL supporters have greeted news of the code’s upcoming NFT mint with indifference and derision, if not outright hostility:

A Twitter war of sorts has been declared, with some punters going as far as to express their “embarrassment” on behalf of the AFL’s dalliance with NFTs:

One disgruntled punter accused the “suits” within the AFL of ruining the code:

Too Much, Too Soon?

Perhaps the AFL’s deeper engagement with crypto is happening all too quickly for some supporters of the code. In January this year, the league secured a major sponsorship deal with Crypto.com, worth A$25 million over five years. It’s one of the biggest sponsorships of any kind in Australian sport, eclipsing the AFL’s partnership with major sponsor Toyota, worth A$18.5 million.

Several AFL clubs – including the Sydney Swans, Western Bulldogs and reigning premier the Melbourne Demons – now have direct sponsorship deals involving cryptocurrency companies other than Crypto.com. Late last year, Australian digital assets exchange Swyftx entered a major two-year partnership with the Brisbane Lions.

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