One right between the sticks for NFT adoption here… the Australian Football League is taking a punt on non-fungible tokens, striking a unique revenue-distribution deal.

Speaking on Wednesday morning at the SportNXT conference in Melbourne, the league’s CEO Gillon McLachlan revealed the AFL has plans in place that involve teaming up with Animoca Brands.

The former ASX-listed, Hong Kong-based firm is one of the leading blockchain gaming and NFT studios in the world, worth more than US$5 billion, and has helped inject a huge amount of investment capital into the space over the past 12 months or so.

McLachlan also confirmed that a deal with the AFL Players Association will ensure the league’s non-fungible token strategy will see players receive a 20 per cent cut of revenue from the sales of official AFL NFTs.

And yep, that certain Lance “Buddy” Franklin goal every other Aussie sports fan’s been talking about recently? There’s an NFT for that. Or at least there will be, and probably multiple NFTs based on it, according to the AFL chief.

“There’ll be a Buddy 1,000 NFT – it’s what it looks like,” McLachlan said. “The team are working on that at the moment. There’ll be lots of NFTs that come out of that because it was a pretty unique event. That was one that will have a lot of value.”

As to what the Sydney Swans star’s 1,000-goal NFTs will entail, it sounds like there might be various different takes on the event, potentially including animation or perhaps video footage.

“There’ll be one official NFT of him kicking that goal. Whether it’s animated, there’ll be different versions of it. That’s the future,” added McLachlan.

The CEO hinted that while there will be plenty of AFL NFTs that will be accessible in price, “there will be some stuff that’s truly unique that I think will be some of the most expensive [NFTs] we do”.


‘Starting to hit mainstream adoption’

Ben Simpson, CEO of Melbourne-based crypto-research and education platform Collective Shift, spoke with Stockhead regarding the AFL’s new NFT plans.

“I think we’re really starting to hit mainstream adoption in crypto and NFTs,” said Simpson, who’s currently attending the first day of the massive Bitcoin 2022 conference over in Miami.

“Just look at the major sponsors for the AFL, a large percentage are all crypto companies already.

“What is most exciting in my opinion about NFTs in sport is that the players can take a share of the revenue of all sales of that NFT forever. Lance [Franklin] will earn a direct percentage cut from that 1,000th-goal NFT.

“Historically, only the sporting organisation or governing body takes the revenue and profit, but an NFT smart contract can distribute a percentage of sales to select players ongoing.”

Collective Shift’s head of research Matt Willemsen meanwhile spoke further about the revenue-distribution aspect in a new YouTube video, noting:

“From a post-career standpoint [for players], it’s a potentially very lucrative source of income or revenue for particularly the better players in the league”.


Are Cricket Australia and the NRL going non-fungible, too?

Sitting on the same SportNXT conference panel as McLachlan were other leading Australian sports CEOs, including Cricket Australia’s Nick Hockley, who also dropped a an interesting tidbit…

Hockley said that Cricket Australia is “close to making an announcement” regarding the NFT space with “a fantastic partner who’s very well plugged into the global cricket marketplace”.

While NRL boss Andrew Abdo said that the emphasis on sports-related NFTs should be on engaging fans:

“It’s important to reinvest in tribalism… and anything that engages people to feel like they belong, whether it’s fantasy products, or whether it’s NFTs.”

Abdo also noted that some NRL clubs have been experimenting with “membership tokens” that give fans special rights in relation to club activities or decisions, adding: “That’s a great way for us to attract a younger audience, a more diversified audience.”