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  • Writer's pictureKevin Jones

Blockchain in Sports: Unpacking Myths and Exploring Realities

In this enlightening interview with Samir Ceric, Chief Operating Officer of Blocksport, readers are taken on a deep dive into the transformative role of blockchain technology in the sports and gambling industries. Ceric dispels common misconceptions about blockchain, emphasising its foundational role beyond cryptocurrencies, and its potential to democratise digitisation within sports through trust, transparency, and traceability. He highlights how blockchain technology enhances fan engagement, security, and generates new revenue streams for sports entities. The conversation also explores the impact of gamified experiences, tokenization, and innovative monetization strategies that are reshaping the relationship between sports entities, their fans, and the gambling sector. With examples from real-world applications to future visions, Ceric illustrates the broad and impactful changes blockchain is bringing to the sports industry, aiming to build a more engaged, transparent, and financially viable ecosystem for all stakeholders involved.



GE) Blockchain technology is often hailed as a game-changer for various industries. From your perspective, how can blockchain contribute to the democratisation of digitisation within the sports realm, and what potential benefits does it bring for both sports entities and the gambling industry in terms of transparency, security, and fan engagement?


SC) Blockchain is often mistaken for the crypto world and the price of Bitcoin which is far from the truth. As somebody who is doing a PhD in blockchain and who guest lectures across UK and European universities, I often talk about the fact that blockchain is the foundation technology that’s been around for decades, with the principles around 3 T’s, Trust, Transparency and Traceability, which should be the core characteristic of any industry regardless of the niche focus or who they are servicing. Because the sports industry has had a fair share of ‘poor’ use cases and collapses of the likes of FTX (The Collapse of FTX: What Went Wrong With the Crypto Exchange? (investopedia.com)) that were closely linked to the sports industry but the entertainment world too, it is no surprise many decision makers within the sport are rather cynical and sceptical about it all. Hence, as active participants in the space, it is our ‘job’ to restore and regain that trust as well as educate and inform those making decisions about the genuine and practical advantages of blockchain and how it can benefit not just their businesses but their biggest asset class, which is their fans. 


Blockchain offers all sorts of benefits when it comes down to deeper fan engagement as well as the creation of new revenues and major sporting properties are starting to realise that hence we are finally reading about the positives of blockchain technology deployment through the design and build of digital ecosystems and infrastructure not in a dissimilar way how telcos have been operating for decades. Play to earn games, fan missions, premium subscriptions via exclusive content, in-app streaming, behind-the-scenes and inside-the-locker room content, and private training sessions with the likes of Ronaldo and his fans, are just some of the benefits global fans can access today, no matter where they are based. And the best thing is, it no longer needs to cost an arm and a leg to win some of these ‘money can’t buy’ experiences; they are happening free of charge for most of these fans. If you look at McLaren’s use case by building a solid Discord community that gets together every Friday and discusses all sorts of things related to the brand including engineering off the back of free NFT drops, you realise that web3 and blockchain are here to stay and they no longer pose a threat to the sport industry and their fans.  


Some other ways in which blockchain can bring about positive changes in the sports realm, benefiting sports entities and the gambling industry, include secure ticketing which helps fraud prevention as blockchain can be employed to create secure and traceable digital tickets. This helps prevent fraud, counterfeit tickets, and unauthorised reselling, ensuring that fans get genuine tickets and that sports entities receive fair compensation.

Furthermore, decentralised broadcasting and content distribution offer direct fan engagement where blockchain can facilitate direct transactions between content creators (such as athletes or teams) and fans. Fans can pay for exclusive content, and creators receive fair compensation without the need for intermediaries.


Also, when it comes down to decentralised streaming, blockchain-based platforms can enable decentralised streaming of sports events, providing a more direct and fair revenue distribution model for content creators which falls under the remit of the creators’ economy which has become a massive global industry.


The last two important industry aspects are anti-doping and integrity about immutable drug test records where blockchain can be used to record and store drug test results securely which in return ensures the integrity of anti-doping efforts, as the information is tamper-proof and transparent; and supply chain management in the form of authentic merchandise where blockchain can be utilised to trace the origin and authenticity of sports merchandise, reducing the market for counterfeit products.


I recently attended ICE London event where some major global partnerships were announced such as: Bet365’s North American expansion which took another step forward as it launched its online sportsbook in Arizona thanks to a partnership with the Ak-Chin Indian Community, extending into its ninth US state; Corey Plummer, chairman and CEO of Olympic Entertainment and OlyBet Group, spoke to ICE Vox about the black market in Europe and how gambling could be made safer for consumers; with the much-anticipated Super Bowl that took place that weekend of the ICE LONDON event in Las Vegas, the American Gaming Association (AGA) predicted Americans would wager upwards of $23.1bn on the big game, with a record number of 67.8 million people expected to place a wager; as well as the positive reports on emergence and growth of new markets with regions such as Africa and LATAM. 


All in all, blockchain technology has the potential to democratise and transform the sports industry by providing transparent, secure, and decentralised solutions. These changes can benefit sports entities by fostering trust and efficiency, while also enhancing fan engagement and opening new possibilities for revenue generation. For the gambling industry, blockchain ensures fair and transparent operations, building trust among users and potentially attracting a broader audience. 


GE) How do gamified experiences and the tokenisation of brands and communities redefine the relationship between sports entities and their fans, and how can these innovations be leveraged by gambling operators to enhance their offerings?


SC) Such experiences are fast becoming the industry norms as many sporting properties with a global fan base have realised that the size of their stadiums and/or arenas can never be big enough to accommodate their fast-growing global fan base so they have to offer a different kind of experience and engagement to keep their loyal fans as well as attract new ones. Game visits, game-watching, and purchase of club merchandise are no longer enough. Many traditional sports properties are launching their esports teams and not in their sport either. They are realising that fans around the world spend a huge amount of time (and money), playing Counterstrike, Fortnite, Call of Duty, Minecraft, Star Wars’ Battlefront, GTA, Clash of Clans, and Valorant, to name a few. In the Philippines alone, 40 million ‘kids’ game daily and the numbers are not drastically different in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. So to retain your loyal fans and attract new ones, the sports industry is heading in that direction, and one of the successful partnerships is between Paris Saint-Germain Football Club (PSG) and Talon esport under the name of PSG Talon, a professional League of Legends team based in Taipei and competes in the Pacific Championship Series (PCS). Founded in 2020, PSG Talon is the most successful team in the PCS, having won six of the league's eight titles and having qualified for the World Championship thrice, in 2020, 2021, and 2023. 


Only last week I was in a meeting with a Premier League football club looking to expand its footprint across Southeast Asia and we are developing a bridge in that respect and discussing strategic partnerships with some of the most successful esports teams as well as football clubs in that part of the world. The key component there to successfully deploy that strategy is the power of the blockchain driven digital infrastructure we’d successfully built over the past few years with dozens of sporting properties across multiple sports, including esports, and on most continents. Many gambling operators have been at the forefront of the gaming world for some time now and bearing in mind betting companies will soon be banned from displaying their logos on front of jerseys of football clubs and other sporting properties around the world, they too are looking into other opportunities, channels and avenues how they can maintain their promotional activities and their revenue growth in the process as the legislation around the world starts coming down hard on them. 


Gambling operators can leverage tokenisation for betting platforms. Tokenised assets can represent bets, winnings, or even unique in-game items, adding an extra layer of transparency and traceability to the gambling experience. They can also collaborate with sports entities to integrate fan tokens into their platforms. This could involve using fan tokens for special betting promotions, exclusive odds, or unique experiences tied to the team's performance.


Finally, data-driven personalisation carries a lot of weight when it comes to gamified data collection. Through gamified experiences, sports entities and gambling operators can collect valuable data on fan preferences, behaviours, and engagement levels. This data can be used to tailor personalised offerings, improving the overall experience for fans and bettors.


In short, gamified experiences and the tokenisation of brands and communities transform the relationship between sports entities and their fans by creating new avenues for engagement, loyalty, and financial connection. Gambling operators can capitalise on these innovations to enhance their offerings, providing a more immersive and interactive experience for bettors while tapping into the passionate and loyal fan base associated with sports entities.


GE) In the context of your experience at Blocksport, could you elaborate on the role of innovation in enhancing the connection between sports entities and their communities? How does the integration of technology, particularly blockchain, empower clubs and leagues to build stronger, more loyal fan bases, and what implications does this have for gambling operators seeking to align with these communities?


SC) At Blocksport, we see ourselves as facilitators and enablers of deeper fan engagement between clubs and their fans as well as educators of the importance of data acquisition and data ownership, not many clubs have realised and understood the true meaning.


Education in the industry is very very important which is the reason we are also forming long term strategic partnerships with like-minded web2 and web3 companies offering not just blockchain-based products and services, but also a deeper knowledge transfer between them and their client base, in many instances dozens of football and basketball clubs, not to ignore rugby, volleyball, handball, cycling, field hockey, ice hockey and other sports we are involved with. Clubs and their senior management need help and assistance on this front also because they want to protect their fans from giving away data to questionable tech companies, looking to exploit the sports industry for their own benefit.


Social media platforms have been useful for clubs to grow their global footprint; however, the biggest issue is that they don’t know content or data when posting on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok etc. Hence the medium to a long-term solution, but a short-term one too, is for them to build their own holistic fan engagement platforms in the form of a Fan App and make those the main communication channels where their fans will be able to get the latest news on the club activities as well as access to exclusive content and fan engagement opportunities to benefit from, be it via their loyalty programs, digital memberships, access to unique digital collectables, all the way to being able to watch the streaming content around the matches, before and after, engage with other fans around the world, purchase club’s merchandise exclusively and with special discounts, even win raffle tickets and ‘meet and greet’ opportunities to spend the real-time with their heroes, be it on face time or in person.


For sponsors, it could also open a world of opportunities by being able to communicate directly to their target audience via sponsored fan missions and on-screen push notifications every fan who has downloaded the Fan App would receive every single time, taking the hit rate from 2-5% to 90-100% every single time.


Last but not least, our recent experience in working with some of the world’s largest companies including telcos that are major sponsors of the sports industry globally, offers something unique in the world of digital transformation bearing in mind telcos are known as consumer-facing companies and the focus on identity and data forms a part of long term objective to help sports properties better understand the power of data and its potential when it comes down to the value proposition behind clubs, leagues and federations, be it big or small. 


Our approach to designing and building holistic fan engagement platforms is aligned with the wants and needs of the sports industry, placing a lot of emphasis on the best practices and highest industry standards including quality control. Innovation is an important aspect of it all and as AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) are no longer just the buzzwords but the reality on the ground, being able to build innovative products such as immersive VR experiences and play to earn games, allowing fans to increase their engagement with clubs as well as earn fan points and even generate revenues in the process, is pretty special and rewarding.  


Gambling operators can explore collaborations with sports entities leveraging blockchain technology. Integrating fan tokens into betting platforms, for instance, can create unique opportunities for fan engagement and loyalty.

By aligning with innovative platforms, gambling operators can offer a more immersive and transparent betting experience. This alignment can enhance the overall user experience and build trust among the fan base.


In summary, innovation, including the integration of blockchain technology, can empower sports entities to build stronger, more loyal fan bases by fostering direct engagement, transparency, and new revenue streams. Gambling operators can align with these communities by exploring collaborative opportunities and offering enhanced user experiences through technological integration. 


GE) Given the unique focus of Blocksport on the tokenisation of brands and communities, how do you see this approach influencing the monetisation strategies for sports organisations? And, looking forward, what role do you envision blockchain and tokenisation playing in reshaping revenue streams for both sports entities and gambling operators?


SC) Those at the helm of the sporting properties will need to incorporate such an approach to their overall digital or blockchain strategies for their clubs. Once they gain a deeper understanding of what it can do for their brands and how it can benefit them and their fans, as well as generate brand new revenues, they had not earned before and how it can also positively impact the value proposition of their existing and future sponsorship packages, it will be a no brainer for them to take it very seriously and drive it forward more boldly and more successfully than ‘today’. As mentioned before there is still a great deal of scepticism and cynicism about the subject purely to do with a lack of knowledge and education and too much jargon being thrown around. None of us want to feel ‘stupid’ or out of our depth hence if those ‘selling’ into the sports industry don’t stop using the jargon, it will take longer to get everyone on board and excited about the opportunities when it comes down to this web2 – web3 bridge we are excited to be a part of. 


My view is that in 5-10 years, blockchain and tokenisation initiatives, products and services will account for more than 50% of the sports industry’s annual revenues; bearing in mind some Premier League clubs are in 100s of millions of pounds in annual revenues today, we can all do the maths. This is going to be a trillion-dollar industry, there are no questions about it and most importantly the creator economy the fans are a part of will also give birth to many successful super fans running Fan Clubs around the world and promoting the power of their club’s brand, and making money in the process too. Fans are loyal to their clubs and money in most cases does not even feature in their decision to help and support their clubs. 


Tokenisation and blockchain options include the likes of Fan Token Offerings (FTOs), Tokenised Loyalty Programs and Digital Collectibles. FTOs offer direct fan involvement by allowing fans to purchase tokens, and in the process providing them with a direct stake in the team or community of some sort. FTOs can serve as an innovative monetisation strategy, generating funds directly from the fan base. Fans, in return, gain access to unique benefits and experiences tied to the team.


Tokenised Loyalty Programs enhance fan engagement where sports organizations can reward fans for their engagement, loyalty, and participation. These rewards such as tokens can be redeemed for exclusive content, merchandise, or even voting rights on certain decisions in relation to the club. Monetising fan engagement becomes a sustainable strategy as fans actively participate in earning and redeeming tokens.


In relation to digital collectables and merchandise, blockchain-based collectables on the blockchain add a layer of authenticity and scarcity. Limited edition digital collectables can then be sold as unique, tradable assets if executed in the right way. 


The tokenisation of brands and communities, powered by blockchain technology, introduces innovative monetisation strategies for sports organisations. It enables direct fan involvement, creates new revenue streams through digital assets, and fosters collaboration with gambling operators for enhanced fan engagement. The decentralised and transparent nature of blockchain can reshape how revenue is generated, shared, and monetised across the sports and gambling industries.


GE) As the industry moves towards untapped revenue streams through digital innovation, what considerations should gambling operators take into account to effectively monetise their digital relationships with fans? How can operators strike a balance between providing unique, value-added experiences for fans and optimising revenue generation through these digital channels?


SC) Gambling operators are fast realising that global legislations are tightening regulations on promotional activities in relation to betting and gambling as well as its visibility in a similar way we’d witness the tobacco companies experienced over the past couple of decades hence they are introducing various social initiatives in a form of social betting that also offers educational aspects of their offering too. Digital innovation offers a variety of opportunities for the industry to offer a fair share of newly created revenues to go towards the sport grassroots which is helping the level playing field around the world. In the UK, Premier League clubs have banned match-day front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies since the summer of 2026 which has provoked mixed reactions. No gambling ads are seen more than those on Premier League shirts, worn by billions around the world. This is one of the reasons gambling operators are looking into digital innovation in order not to experience a big hit on their revenues, which directly and indirectly are also ‘feeding’ the sports industry with necessary investments. It is not dissimilar to the likes of crypto exchanges such as Binance, Tezos and Whitebit teaming up with the likes of Ronaldo, McLaren and Barcelona FC respectively. 


Furthermore, gambling operators can effectively monetise their digital relationships with fans by prioritising user-centric approaches, personalisation, transparency, and innovation. Striking the right balance involves understanding user preferences, staying ahead of industry trends, and continually adapting to meet the evolving needs and expectations of the digital audience.


Community building is an important part of the necessary balance which includes building of engagement platforms designed to create a sense of community among users where fans can interact, share experiences, and participate in discussions. Building the community strengthens the emotional connection with the brand.


However there are more relevant considerations for gambling operators worth including such as understanding user preferences such as:


  • Behaviours, and expectations of one’s user base and collecting data ethically;

  • Using analytics to gain insights into what users value in their digital experiences;

  • Maintaining transparency about data usage, terms and conditions, and any financial transactions by clear communication which builds trust, a critical factor in maintaining long-term relationships with fans;

  • Providing exclusive and innovative content, features, or promotions that are not easily replicable which could include special betting options tied to specific events or partnerships with sports entities for unique experiences;

  • Introducing gamification elements to make the platform more entertaining which could involve loyalty programs, leaderboards, challenges, and interactive games that enhance the overall experience for users;

  • Investing in robust cyber security measures to protect user data, ensuring compliance with data protection regulations and prioritising user privacy to maintain trust;

  • Establishing mechanisms for collecting user feedback by regularly soliciting opinions on the platform's features, usability, and overall experience to identify areas for improvement;

  • Exploring strategic alliances with sports entities, media outlets, or influencers where such collaborations can enhance the platform's credibility and attract a wider audience;

  • Staying abreast of evolving regulations in the gambling and digital industry, ensuring strict adherence to compliance standards to avoid legal complications and maintain a positive reputation; and developing strategies for long-term user retention to include loyalty programs, special promotions for existing users, and continuous improvements based on user feedback contribute to a lasting relationship.


Having just returned from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where some of the world’s biggest brands presented their innovative products and services in web2 and web3 space, from the likes of Google, Samsung, Oracle, Huawei, Deutsche Telekom, Orange Group, Telefonica, SK Telecom, Airbus, IBM, Salesforce, I am convinced that the scope on community engagement, citizen engagement and fan engagement is huge and we have only scratched the surface of it all. I am rather bullish about the times ahead and am glad we are playing an active part in it on a global stage.


About our contributor

Samir Ceric is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across tech, finance, telecom, aviation, and sports industries, including being a former chairman of a football club. He is deeply involved in blockchain technology and innovation, aiming to enhance transparency and investment opportunities in sports, finance, and the creative industry. Ceric has also contributed as a mentor, philanthropist, public speaker (including a TEDx at London Business School), and mental health advocate. He holds Master's degrees in Mathematics from the University of Bologna and the University of Sussex, is pursuing a PhD in blockchain

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