Debt-laden FC Barcelona begins selling NFTs

You can ‘own’ a historic moment from the club’s century-long history.

BSR Agency via Getty Images

FC Barcelona, one of football’s biggest clubs, is auctioning off NFTs “based on some of the club’s historic moments.” Details are scarce for now, but it appears as if the club will allow fans to bid on clips of highlights in a style similar to that of NBA Top Shot. The transactions will take place through Ownix, a new Ethereum-based marketplace which will offer auctions for digital trinkets in a variety of categories. The company says that the Barcelona NFTs will be selected by a “special joint committee” and then minted, first as unique one-off auctions, and then later as a broader limited edition or collection. Ownix, which is emerging from stealth with this announcement, currently has a fairly limited selection of items to purchase, including some Squid Game and Batman-themed fan art, plus whatever the hell this is.

Barcelona’s decision to begin selling NFTs may have been prompted by the debt crisis the club is currently in, with debts reported around $1.56 billion this summer. The club’s previous leadership is accused of reckless spending on a number of players on high wages that have subsequently underperformed. This summer, the club was forced into a fire sale and, due to rules on how big its wage bill could be, was unable to retain Lionel Messi, one of the world’s most successful players. That NFTs are, essentially, the definition of money for old rope, means that it's the sort of financial opportunity a club like Barcelona are incapable of turning down right now.

The club isn't alone in leaping feet-first into the cryptocurrency mire, with many major names offering "Fan Tokens" through Socios. That company offers clubs the ability to mint their own coins and use it to run engagement schemes with their fans. But, unlike real socios — the Spanish word for the members who own a real ownership stake in their club — these tokens will only allow you to take part in polls set out by the club's leadership, enter competitions, and so on. But despite the obvious limitations, Socios is already making money, and when France's Paris Sant-Germain signed Lionel Messi, part of his "welcome package" was a bundle of these tokens, believed to be worth (at the time) up to $34 million.

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