September 21, 2021

Sorare valued at $4.3bn after monster Series B led by SoftBank

Tradable sports tokens are taking the NFT craze into the mainstream.

Maija Palmer

6 min read

Nicolas Julia

It’s a funding deal that leaves even the big transfer fees for top footballers looking like pocket change.

Sorare, a blockchain-based fantasy football game, has raised a $680m Series B round led by SoftBank, which values the three-year-old French company at $4.3bn. It is the biggest Series B round in Europe to date.

It makes Sorare France’s highest-valued scaleup, bigger than insurtech Alan or carsharing company Blablacar. Oh the irony for Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged billions of euros to deeptech industries like quantum computing, that France’s biggest startup success is based on a fantasy sports game.


But the big funding round is actually not so surprising. Non-fungible tokens linked to football clubs and football players have become a big business, with thousands of football fans buying and selling the tokens on crypto exchanges.

A unique Christiano Ronaldo token sold for $289,920 in March.

Serious traders can make thousands of dollars from these trades, in much the same way a daytrader might from trading stocks or cryptocurrencies. A unique token for Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid forward, sold for $110,816.76 three months ago, according to data from Coinranking. A unique Cristiano Ronaldo token sold for $289,920 in March. 

The value of these kinds of tokens was underscored this summer when part of Lionel Messi’s $41m wage package with Paris Saint Germain came in the form of an undisclosed amount of PSG fan tokens, issued by Socios, a competitor to Sorare. PSG fan tokens were trading for just under $30 on Friday according to CoimMarketCap. With around 3.1m of them in circulation, this gives PSG a market value of $92.7m.

Sorare has emerged as one of the leaders in the market. It focuses on fantasy football games using these non-fungible player tokens. You can buy a line-up of player cards — for example PSG’s Kylian MBappe as a forward, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer for goal and so on — and “play” your fantasy football team in matches against others to win prizes paid in real cryptocurrenccy.

You can also buy and sell the player tokens as their value goes up and down. Pick up a token for a rookie player — like a 16-year-old Jude Bellingham playing his debut season at Birmingham City — cheaply and watch the value go up when he signs for Borussia Dortmund. Or conversely, watch the value of your token plummet as a player is injured.

Sorare has signed up 180 football clubs, including a deal with Spain's La Liga last week.

Sorare has signed up some 180 clubs — including names like Real Madrid, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund — for its platform, and last week signed a deal to get Spain’s entire La Liga on board.

The next step is to expand into the US and into sports other than football, Nicolas Julia, cofounder and CEO told Sifted.

We are in the process of opening an office in the US to support the development of other sports.

“The aim in the coming months is to bring in all the top 20 leagues on board and then expand towards other sports. We are in the process of opening an office in the US to support the development of other sports,” Julia said.

One of the reasons sports NFTs have become popular is because they allow football fans a new way to connect with clubs and participate in the sport, even when there isn’t a match on.

Sorare player tokens

“It's an amazing way to connect, for the fans, because, first of all, you own this collectable but it is also a way to access cool experiences. Owning the NFT can give you access to the training ground or to meet the players. Last week, the winners of one of our games won tickets to go to the Atletico Madrid-Barcelona game,” Julia told Sifted. “I think this utility value is something that sets us apart in the NFT space.”

Owning the NFT can give you access to the training ground or to meet the players.

Some of the other NFT sports token companies have gone even further down the fan engagement route. Socios’ tokens allow fans to vote on decisions at the clubs — for example, Juventus token holders were able to vote on the decorations on the team bus. Apollon FC, the Cypriot football club, even allowed token holders to chose the starting line-up for a friendly match last October.

Other NFT sports token companies include Fantastec, which has deals with Real Madrid, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, and Stryking, part of Animoca Brands, which has a deal with FC Bayern Munich. DraftKings, the US fantasy sports site also recently did a deal with Autograph, a startup backed by American football star Tom Brady,  that sells NFT-based sports memorabilia, like video clips and signed pictures of sports stars.

Footballers themselves are increasingly getting involved in these platforms — not just getting paid, like Messi, in football club tokens — but playing the games. Sorare says it has thousands of footballers on its platform, taking part in fantasy games.

“We have 1000s of them that are certified on the platform, playing the game on a regular basis. They share feedback with us about the way we score players, saying things like ‘I did three assists and only got that one point, maybe you should improve that part of the algorithm.’ This is a way to interact with them that we find really useful and as a big football fan, I find it very cool as well.”

Spanish international footballer César Azpilicueta took part in the Sorare round.

Footballers aren’t just giving advice, they are investing, too. Spanish international footballer César Azpilicueta took part in the Sorare round as a new investor, joining other high profile business angels including Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and football players Gerard Piqué, Rio Ferdinand and Antoine Griezmann.

Other new investors included LionTree, Bessemer Ventures, IVP, Atomico, D1 Capital, Latitude, Felix Capital, Blisce, H14 and Eurazeo with existing investors Benchmark, Accel and Headline also participating.

Sorare cofounders Nicholas Julia and Adrien Montfort
Sorare cofounders Nicholas Julia and Adrien Montfort

A sports-related game is a good way to really bring an understanding of NFTs to the mass market, says Julia. Although NFTs have become popular in some art circles, the average person is still unlikely to be bidding on artwork by Beeple at a Christie's auction. Sport, on the other hand, is highly accessible.

“What's important for me is not explaining what an NFT with buzzwords but for users to feel the benefits, to feel they truly own the game, that they can move and sell their assets. I want people to experience it,” he told Sifted.