As soon as rumours started buzzing that football star Lionel Messi would transfer from FC 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 soar. 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 per cent a week later, and by 73 per cent four months after they were issued.
“I would never keep them in my investment portfolio for the long term,” said Mr Schweizer, 29, chief executive of Decrypto, a Buenos Aires-based exchange and wallet. “They’re trade opportunities.”
For many, football club tokens have proved a disappointment, with prices losing steam within days.
It is three years since fan tokens started trading in the main cryptocurrency exchanges, promising an alternative for clubs to gain cash and for fans to be closer to their favourite teams. Both have yet to live up to expectation.
Clubs that have issued tokens include Manchester City, FC Barcelona and AC Milan.
FC Arsenal has raised $5.5 million through fan tokens, though most transactions are closer to $2m. That’s a fraction of these clubs’ expenses.
Analysts say demand for fan tokens quickly goes from euphoria to indifference. Their main criticism is that the tokens have few tangible benefits for their owners.
The Juventus token 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, chief executive 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 $491m and its daily traded volume is $241m.
The biggest 10 fan tokens have an average daily volume of $13m, only 28 per cent of the daily volume traded, on average, for the 364 coins listed on Binance, according to data from CoinMarketCap and CoinGecko.
The world’s largest fan token by market capitalisation, Manchester City, has a market cap of $56m and the daily traded volume is under $15m, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. Its price is half of what it was issued for.
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 chief executive of Socios.com, a company that partners with clubs to develop the tokens.
Socios.com has 57 fan token partners, including football teams and Formula 1, up from 20 a year ago. Mr Dreyfus says this indicates growing interest.
“We’re seeing an uptick in interest from clubs in issuing fan tokens,” he said. “Fans will be able to 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 validate transactions on blockchain, with the rewards and fees divided among the participants and the exchange.
Binance offered holders 8 per cent of annualised returns when they kept the Lazio tokens locked for 30 days, or 15 per cent if they kept them for 90 days.
Some say they still see a good investment opportunity, even amid low volumes that reflect the wider mood on cryptocurrency volatility. They point to certain tokens, such as PSG’s or Barca’s, which have attracted spikes of interest when there’s big news.