We take a look crypto craze moving into sport

As World Rugby move into the market, what are NFTs?

You may have heard about the NBA’s digital platform called NBA Top Shot – a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace where fans can trade NBA moments. Imagine your favourite YouTube highlights, used like digital trading cards.

It has gathered pace since their launch in October last year, with fees climbing into the hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on clips.

In September, and despite the postponement of their flagship event, Rugby League World Cup also entered the sphere, joining forces with blockchain company NuArca.

Now World Rugby want a piece of the action. They have just announced their intention to move into the digital collectables marketplace, saying: “World Rugby plans to launch a programme of digital collectibles to engage fans and transform its commercial models.

“World Rugby seeks suppliers to co-developer a non-fungible token (NFT) programme.”

They are seeking any interested parties, who have until 6pm on 24 December to submit responses to their ‘Request for Information‘.

It is a brave new world for the sport, but what does it all mean? We take a look.

So what are NFTs?

An NFT (non-fungible token) is a digital token; a type of cryptocurrency. Think of Bitcoin. However, unlike a standard coin in the Bitcoin blockchain, an NFT is unique and can’t be exchanged like-for-like, hence the term “non-fungible”.

Though it holds no tangible form, it can be bought and sold like any other piece of property; artwork, music, and videos. Essentially it comes down to verifying ownership of digital content. If someone buys a piece of digital content as an NFT – an image, a video, or others – and a record of the sale is made on a blockchain, this means logging it on an unchangeable digital ledger.

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This doesn’t have any impact on the practical properties of the content. If it’s an image, for example, it can still be saved and copied just like any other image. However, it means that whoever ‘owns’ it can point to the record on the blockchain and prove that they’re the ‘official’ owner of it.


NFTs have exploded in popularity this year and as a result they’ve become something of a ‘wild west’, with seemingly everyone trying to get a piece of the action, writes ITPro’s reviews and community editor Adam Shepherd. NFTs have a passionate (and vocal) community of supporters, but they’ve also been met with bafflement and skepticism from those who don’t see any value in them.

One of the biggest arguments against NFTs is that the digital nature of the content means that, although you may technically ‘own’ the subject of the token – be it a picture of a cartoon monkey or a rugby trading card – anyone is free to copy, save and share it. In short, the ownership of the thing may be exclusive, but the possession of it isn’t. 

However, while a significant portion of the current NFT craze is being driven by profit-hungry investors seeking to capitalise on the next bitcoin-style investment trend, the principle behind it may be genuinely appealing to die-hard collectors. After all, collecting sports memorabilia is partly about securing bragging rights by owning a unique piece of sports history – and for some, it may not matter that the thing they’re buying doesn’t physically exist. 

Outside of a comparative handful of extremely committed fans, though, this initiative is unlikely to take off in any serious way. While there’s some appeal in being able to lay claim to being the rightful owner of a digital collectible, paying thousands (or more) on something that you can’t show off on your mantelpiece is probably going to be a tough sell for the vast majority of average sports fans.

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