SINGAPORE - Non-fungible token (NFT) was Collins Dictionary's 2021 word of the year and one of tech's biggest buzzwords is also making waves in the sporting world as some of the biggest teams, leagues and stars have ventured into the NFT space.
The National Basketball Association has enjoyed some success with Top Shot, an NFT marketplace where fans can buy, sell and trade digital basketball moments, while the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) launched its 'Strike' NFTs in January.
Sorare, a fantasy football game in which players manage a virtual team of digital player cards, saw an Erling Haaland NFT sold for £511,000 (S$929,900) this week, while seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi also has his own NFT collection.
Sports properties are also getting in on the action closer to home.
In August last year, Singapore-based One Championship announced it was partnering blockchain platform Theta Network to launch an NFT marketplace featuring collectibles of the mixed martial arts promotion's athletes.
Fans of local sport can soon get their hands on NFTs of national athletes when SportsCollective, a platform that will allow fans to hold NFTs curated by athletes, is launched in the middle of February.
The platform is co-founded by Singapore Silat Federation (Persisi) chief executive Sheik Alauddin and Alfred Lye with the aim of creating more ways for athletes to generate income and improve interaction between the athletes and fans.
Lye has been running his own management consultancy firm since 1990, consulting businesses in the retail, education and sports, hospitality and resorts, healthcare, financial, non-profit and Government sectors.
These NFTs, which represent certificates of ownership for digital assets, will come in different forms such as superfan badges, iconic sports moments, portraits of athletes, signed accessories and iconic moves.
Athletes who have joined the platform include Sheik's two sons Farhan and Ferdous, both silat world champions, and Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful, who won her world title in 2018.
Sheik said the company is in talks with other athletes like badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew as well as those from neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea, saying more details will be revealed after the launch.
Sheik, 54, added: "By incentivising the athletes through the sales of NFTs, the young athletes will strive harder to ensure that they are seen by everyone. This will promote healthy competition and everyone will benefit from this.
"Singaporean athletes all gearing towards improvement will eventually be made known throughout the world."
The former two-time silat world champion is confident that there will be interest in the NFTs on SportsCollective as NFTs are "the latest thing right now and everybody is getting their hands on it".
Deloitte Global predicts that NFTs for sports media will generate more than US$2 billion (S$2.71 billion) in transactions this year - about double the figure for 2021 - with four to five million sports fans globally purchasing or being gifted an NFT sports collectible by the end of the year.
On what got him interested in the platform, Farhan, 24, said: "I think it's an interesting venture. There is not much risk to it going in as an athlete. It's more why not (try it out) than why. The concept is quite ambitious, it'd be interesting to see what happens when they launch their token.
"In terms of getting my name out there, it's not really important but I like to learn about new tech so being part of it is interesting."
Suhaila believes that the platform can increase the visibility of athletes, which could lead to more opportunities and support for them.
The 26-year-old said: "I'm happy to be considered a local sports icon and to be selected to be part of something that can potentially become great. It'll give us further recognition and exposure to potential investors."
More info can be found at the SportsCollective website.