Exchange Launching ‘Soccer-Related’ Cryptocurrency In World First Using Ripple Network

Sooner or later it had to come – cryptocurrency entering the soccer arena with its legions of supporters around the globe. Now the London Football Exchange (LFE) is set to launch a cryptocurrency to power an ecosystem of “inter-related components” made up of sports, media, entertainment, finance and a foundation.

This will allow a “fan-driven” football community the opportunity to take part in various club and fan experiences from match day tickets, tours and player meet and greets (VIP experiences) to specific merchandise and third-party partner offers. The touted goal is to create the “ultimate sport community” for fans, so those heading the initiative claim.

The development comes as we are seeing a Blockchain idea almost every minute at the moment. The technology has the capability to meet virtually any use case, which is the easy part. However, the real issue and $64 million question centres on whether it can attract customers and monetize the technology or service stemming from it.

The initiative from the LFE followed just days CashBet announced last week (January 24) what was described as a “landmark partnership” with English Premier League football club Arsenal FC – prior to an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) of its new cryptocurrency, CashBet Coin. This is designed specifically for iGaming. It made CashBet Coin the North London club’s exclusive and official Blockchain Partner.

Calum Chambers of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on January 29, 2018 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images).

For its part, CashBet is targeting a global, multi-billion dollar marketplace of iGaming content providers, operators and players according to the firm’s CEO and founder Dr. Mike Reaves.

And, their CEO asserted that the token “will improve the online experience for real money, casino, social, skill-based, eSports and sports betting players through increased trust and transparency, faster payouts, reduced fees and dedicated player protection.”

The move by the LFE, which said it aims to use blockchain technology to help clubs provide loyal fans with enhanced experiences and services, also comes against the backdrop of a number of UK football clubs currently outsourcing their match day and season ticketing to legacy platforms and paying around 5% in fees.

It is being claimed by the protagonists behind the project that this “moves to zero.” Bold stuff. Indeed, the LFE is insisting that participating clubs must pass some of this saving onto the fans directly of the “beautiful game”, which globally is estimated to have four billion fans.

The football exchange revealed that it intends to use the Ripple and Stellar networks to support its endeavors for its platform, with the LFE to launch both the LFE Market and the Exchange. This will enable fans to easily purchase club merchandise, access exclusive services and other exclusive packages and purchase with LFE token – from anywhere in the world.

Specifically, LFE’s platform will use the Ripple and Stellar networks to support token issuance, trades, and transfers, with Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple all accepted as part of its token sale.

Charles Pittar, Corporate CEO of the London Football Exchange, commenting in the wake of the development said: “Our vision is to allow football clubs to take advantage of the token funding economy for their financing needs by providing them with a tokenized financing infrastructure, which involves token-design and issuance services.”

In terms of the mechanics behind this, it is explained that by creating the LFE Market, fans and clubs are able to come together with common interest in the business of the sport.

Fans holding LFE tokens will have the opportunity to partake in club financing packages and be directly rewarded and take equity ownership at a lower cost than any single club could do individually. (Note: Investing in cryptocoins or tokens is highly speculative and the market is largely unregulated. Anyone considering it should be prepared to lose their entire investment).

A number of discussions have been initiated by the London Football Exchange and already underway with over fifty clubs. The list spans not juts UK Premier League clubs, but some of the most prominent teams throughout Europe, the United States and Australia.

Ben Leigh-Hunt, a main board advisor, revealed: “We are announcing our first Global Loyal Fan Experience later this week. Equity participants shall be announced in the coming weeks as currently we have to let the lawyers do their ‘lawyering’ with various clubs.”

Football Club Equity Exchange

In terms of the football club equity exchange, Pittar, who previously was Asia COO at Macquarie Bank for three years and a director at Citi before that explained: “The LFE aims to become a “one-stop shop” for clubs of all sizes to raise capital via equity sales and also offer LFE contributors a wealth of fan experiences and social interaction.”

Fans will also be offered the chance to buy shares of football clubs. That said, for some British clubs outside the very top flight – Leeds United, Millwall and Celtic to name a few – the experience of floating on the stockmarket has not exactly proved scintillating with their stock prices performing woefully.

And, for other clubs the stockmarket route has been soggy at best- if not waterlogged – just like a good old British soccer pitch in winter.

However, it should be pointed here out that those named clubs tried to support individual programs. By offering the global market and exchange on the Blockchain, LFE has argued that is able to bring cost savings, economies of scale and “higher security to capital programs.”

To coin a footballing analogy similar to “Getting into Europe”, let’s imagine an English Football league (EFL) 1 or 2 club in the lower reaches of the EFL pyramid being on the equity exchange and being traded side by side with some of the largest clubs in La Liga in Spain, Ligue 1 in France or the Bundesliga in Germany.

“We expect the clubs to benefit from this brand association and the fact that this global exposure will encourage fans from farther afield to build a portfolio of clubs in the same way we may buy stocks in London, New York and Tokyo,” stated Pittar.

By investing in its token they get exclusive access to football-related services, merchandise, events and unique VIP experiences. For clubs, it enables an injection of fresh capital to create added-value to boost club financing, helping improve fan engagement and promoting social good, youth development and gender equality.

As regards exactly how the exchange aims to become a “one-stop shop” for clubs of all sizes to raise capital via equity sales, there are three primary components to the LFE.

  • Firstly, the LFE Token enables the global economy running the loyal fan experiences with payments, rewards and other related services. The LFE token will not only be used in the LFE Market, but within participating venues and their surrounding business community.
  • The second is the LFE Exchange where it will be a licensed Multi-lateral trading facility (‘MTF’) trading platform supporting the final component. (see below)
  • Global fan ownership where any fan can buy, trade or sell LFE for their club of choice.

Pittar added: “Clubs will be encouraged to offer some equity through the LFE and required to offer a minimum number of unique experiences or special offers so that the real fans can take part in their favourite clubs.”

Towards this endeavor, LFE is being advised on the launch by leading law firm CMS.

Sam Robinson, a partner at CMS, remarked: “As a firm, CMS has a particular focus on fintech and it’s very exciting to be advising the LFE on establishing a business that is aiming to have an impact on the entire football industry using blockchain technology.” The lawyer described LFE as being at the “cutting edge of regulation and technology.”

LFE engagement services will include LFE Points, a blockchain-enabled loyalty, rewards and offers platform. Members of the football exchange benefit through special discounts, exclusive offers, rewards and other incentives only available to LFE token holders.

The greater the engagement LFE token holders have with their favourite clubs and leagues, the more LFE Points they will receive.

For the clubs, the LFE tokens are touted as aiming to also help them eliminate the antiquated ticketing technology from legacy operators. This can typically mean they pay fees ranging from 5% to 8% in commission based on the notional value of tickets sold.

As regards disrupting the landscape, Jeremy Drzal, founder and CEO of BLOCK512 and LFE advisor, said: “Not only is LFE changing the technology platforms with blockchain and cryptocurrency, but we are disrupting the business models so we can bring the savings directly back to the fans.”

Gaining Traction?

Gary Wright, CEO & founder of City thinktank B.I.S.S. Research, a former executive at JPMorgan Flemings and life-long Tottenham Hotspurs fan, commenting on the merits of the blockchain use case being applied by LFE said: “There is some mileage in the idea, but implementation might be problematic.”

That said, he expressed caution and some doubt over whether this particular use case would gain much traction.

He added: “Even if it did it would spawn any number from its success and create confusion for its proposed customers – the football fans. I doubt also that football clubs and the associations they are members of would tolerate potential revenues flying out their window.”

Most likely according to Wright is that the football establishment would “build a market structure around Blockchain that brings all their members into line and offers the football fan customers with security and build on their fan worship.” He noted that Stub hub already offer a ticket tout type service that some clubs utilize but that often frustrates the fans.”

Elsewhere, John Barker, non-executive Chairman of Russia-focused brokerage ITI Group, and an avid Queens Park Rangers fan, said: “I see Blockchain and The London Football Exchange looking to launch its own cryptocurrency as forward thinking.”

The gaming and technology expert, who was former managing director and Head of International at institutional dark pool trading network Liquidnet Europe (2001- 2012), also  by way of proxy for the LFE’s future potential cited The Football Exchange, which offers two-way (buy/sell) prices in the favourite players of fans. It appears to have met with some success.

“There are billions of football fans and they are a young demographic and keen to invest in their favourite players,” Barker added.

Whatever else, the protagonist behind the exchange’s project venture that Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are important for the LFE because they bring security, transparency, and lower cost to operate the system.

“By reducing the third-party payment processing costs, fraud and risk, the savings can directly go back into the ecosystem for fans, businesses and other programs such as youth development,” Pittar said.

The LFE’s ITO pre-sale, which commenced on 15 January 2018 and runs to 11 February 2018 at a token price of $0.12 per unit. Thereafter the price rises to $0.14 (early backers) and $0.20 in the third round of the ITO. It is understood that 60% of a total 4 billion tokens are to be made available to the fans, with 2% earmarked to support the LFE Foundation.

For more information on the LFE and to read the whitepaper on the project view this link.

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